Forbidden Fruit ("Kielletty hedelmä" 2009, Finland, Dome Karukoski)
This is a somewhat restrained coming of age story centered on Finland's Laestadian (Lutheran) sect, a faith-based community of Biblical literalism, and 18 year-old Maria, now old enough to decide for herself whether she'll remain in the community she grew up in or move to the city to live. While she's been taught to believe in the God-based, family values at the heart of the communal focus, a move to the city represents temptations from the "Arch Fiend," in boyfriends, drinking and dancing. Maria's friend is sent to track her down and guide her through this transitional phase, and most of all to call her to her roots, to urge her to come back home, to give up the city and its allure. But the film explores more than just themes of body/spirit or country/city temptations. The idea is that a friend will follow you anywhere, even to the heart of a strange city you can't possibly know how to deal with -- that your friend is one who will struggle with you, that she'll aid you in the hard times -- and that quite possibly the two of you will both change in unexpected ways because of what you've been through together. The strict religious ideals and how the two girls learn of its value make this an easy pick for my Top 10 this year. It's a heartwarming tale, but ends on a note that is... well, it's complicated. But I've a feeling that no matter what approach the two girls take to daily living, they won't be separated from a faith that is more resilient than anyone thought. This is a beautiful, quiet, carefully crafted film, rich with longing, friendship and spirituality. I honestly can't wait to see it again.