The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki

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The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki.jpg
Film poster
Directed byJuho Kuosmanen
Written byJuho Kuosmanen
Mikko Myllylahti
Produced byJussi Rantamäki
StarringJarkko Lahti
Oona Airola
Eero Milonoff
CinematographyJani-Petteri Passi
Edited byJussi Rautaniemi
Distributed byB-Plan Distribution
Release date
  • 19 May 2016 (2016-05-19) (Cannes)
  • 2 September 2016 (2016-09-02) (Finland)
Running time
92 minutes
Box office$360,863[1]

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (Finnish: Hymyilevä mies, lit.'Smiling man') is a 2016 Finnish drama film directed by Juho Kuosmanen. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival[2][3] where it won the Prize Un Certain Regard.[4] It was selected as the Finnish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards but it was not nominated.[5]


It's the year 1962: Olli Mäki (Jarkko Lahti) is a Finnish amateur-turned-professional boxer from the town of Kokkola who, while attending a wedding, becomes smitten with his friend Raija (Oona Airola). They travel to Helsinki where his manager Elis Ask (Eero Milonoff) is preparing Olli's big break: a World Boxing Association featherweight championship title fight against renowned American boxer Davey Moore (John Bosco Jr.) in the Helsinki Olympic Stadium. The match would be one of the biggest events in Finnish sporting history, even though most people – including Olli – are skeptical: Moore's record vastly outclasses Olli's.

The preparations are not without problems: Olli is lightweight and has to lose enough weight within two weeks to reach featherweight, Elis' enthusiasm about the match includes hiring a documentary film crew who become increasingly disruptive as the preparations go on, and staging various dinner parties with the sponsors of the match which require the uncomfortable Olli to adhere to protocol. The circus around the match disheartens Olli, who falls more and more in love with Raija – Raija, however, feels she's a burden on Olli's preparation, and goes back to Kokkola. Olli has a hard time concentrating, and eventually follows Raija, much to the dismay of Elis, who is concerned that Olli won't make weight by the time the weigh-in comes, let alone be prepared for the match itself.

Olli eventually persuades Elis to leave him to prepare on his own, and puts himself through a drastic process of losing weight: during the weigh-in, he barely makes weight, and on the same day, he proposes to Raija. As the match begins, Olli has a good start in the first round, but gets knocked down several times in the second and the referee calls for a technical knockout. While Elis is disappointed, Olli seems to be at peace with the loss, and quietly walks away from the post-match dinner with Raija.


The real Olli and Raija Mäki appear briefly at the very end of the film, as Raija looks at them and asks Olli "Do you think we'll be like them when we're old?"


The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki was the feature-length debut of director Juho Kuosmanen, who had previously directed short films as well as theatre and opera productions.

The film was shot on location, mostly in Helsinki. To achieve the 1960s look, Kuosmanen and cinematographer Jani-Petteri Passi decided to film on 16mm Kodak Tri-X black and white film stock. They felt this gave the film a vintage look even though the film stock was not meant for feature films. The production team ended up ordering all the stock available in Europe and the United States after which Kodak had to produce more.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. It currently rates a full 100% at Rotten Tomatoes[7] and 83 at Metacritic which classifies the film's reception as "universal acclaim" according to the website's criteria.[8] David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter called the film "a small marvel of impeccable craftsmanship", lauding its black and white cinematography and "faultless and unshowy" performances.[9] Geoffrey Macnab of The Independent said Olli Mäki "rethinks and revatilises" the genre of boxing movies and also found it one of the year's most likeable films.[10] Both Macnab and Kristopher Tapley of Variety called the film a leading contender for the foreign language Oscar.[10][11]


The film has won several awards at film festivals:

The film also won eight Jussi Awards at the 71st Jussi Awards in 2017.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  2. ^ "2016 Cannes Film Festival Announces Lineup". IndieWire. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Cannes 2016: Film Festival Unveils Official Selection Lineup". Variety. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  4. ^ a b Rebecca Ford and Rhonda Richford (21 May 2016). "Cannes: 'The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki' Wins Un Certain Regard Prize". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 21 May 2016.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  5. ^ Holdsworth, Nick (5 September 2016). "Oscars: Finland Selects 'The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki' for Foreign-Language Category". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
  6. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (16 November 2016). "'Olli Maki' Cinematographer Approached Project as a Love Story, Not Boxing Movie". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  7. ^ "The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (Hymyilevä mies)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  8. ^ "The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki". Metacritic. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  9. ^ Rooney, David (20 May 2016). "'The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki' ('Hymyileva mies'): Cannes Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  10. ^ a b Macnab, Geoffrey (19 October 2016). "The Happiest Day In The Life Of Olli Mäki rethinks and revitalises the boxing movie genre". The Independent. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  11. ^ Tapley, Kristopher. "The Contenders: Best Foreign Language Film". Variety. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  12. ^ Mitchell, Wendy (2 October 2016). "'Olli Maki' wins Golden Eye at Zurich Film Festival". Screen Daily. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  13. ^ Phillips, Michael (22 October 2016). "Rule, Romania: 'Sieranevada,' 'Graduation' win big at Chicago Film Fest". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  14. ^ Määttänen, Juuso (24 March 2017). "Tässä ovat Jussi-gaalan kaikki voittajat: Hymyilevä mies on paras elokuva - voitti yhteensä 8 palkintoa" [Here are all the Jussi Award winners: The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki won Best Film - it won 8 awards in total] (in Finnish). Iltalehti. Retrieved 26 March 2017.

External links[edit]