Äideistä parhain (Mother of Mine) (2005)

 

 

 

Director:     .

Starring:     Topi Majaniemi (Eero Lahti), Marjaana Maijala (Kirsti Lahti - Eeron äiti), Maria Lundqvist (Signe Jönsson - äiti Ruotsissa), Michael Nyqvist (Hjalmar Jönsson - isä Ruotsissa), Esko Salminen (Eero Lahti - nykyaika), Aino-Maija Tikkanen (Kirsti Lahti - nykyaika), Kari-Pekka Toivonen (Lauri - Eeron isä), Brasse Brännström (Isoisä Ruotsissa), Penny Elvira Loftéen (Siv - naapurintyttö), Ia Langhammer (Anna), Leif Andrée (Gunnar), Marie Göranzon (Rouva Grevnäs), Åsa Persson (Opettajatar), Gustav Wiklund (Pappi), Patrick Henriksen (Tuomas - kotiavustaja).

Made for TV film.

Swedish film; over 70,000 Finnish war children sent to Sweden, Norway and Denmark; one boy's story in Sweden

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

"At the beginning of World War II, Sweden wanted to help its war-torn neighbor Finland by offering Finnish children temporary homes with Swedish families.  There were more than 70,000 'war children'." 

A grown man remembers back to World War II.  He sees himself as a young boy and asks:  "Mother, do you still remember how it all began?  Do you still remember how the war began?" 

The boy, Eero Lahti, is standing in the snow looking up in the sky to see if he can see the airplanes that are flying over his head.  The two friends with him leave.  A bomb explodes out in the woods and that wakes Eero up.  He hears his mother calling him.  He starts running home.  Mom is in the woods searching for him. 

Back to the present.  Eero is a grown man.  His mother says yes, she remembers WWII.  Eero gives her some flowers and she reminds him that he missed her birthday.  Eero says he was out of town.  A young man named Tuomas comes in to give mother a ride.  Mother introduces Tuomas to her son.  Tuomas is from Seniors' Home Help.  Mother gets helped into a wheel chair.  Eero asks his mother when can they talk?  Mother says to Tuomas that now Eero wants to talk about the war.  She says to Eero:  "You never wanted to talk about it before."  Eero explains that he was invited to a funeral in Sweden.  It's the funeral of Signe Jönsson. 

Signe's niece Siv wrote in the invitation that Signe wanted him to attend the funeral.  He didn't think he would ever go back to Sweden.  "They were all strangers to me now."  But he went.  A taxi drops him off at the old farm and he walks up the curving dirt driveway.   He goes to the farm house and into the house.  He takes off his shoes.  He picks up a framed photo of him as a boy with his temporary Swedish family.

Flashback.  Eero remembers before the war had started.  His father and mother were flirting with each other at a dance.  Eero watches them intently.  Then he remembers when his father had to report to the military.  Mother cried and father told her that nothing's going to happen to him.  He says if he sees a Russky, he'll hide in the bushes, as quiet as a mouse.  They will be back together soon.  Eero, however, is worried and he asks:  "What if their bombers attack you?"  Dad says the Finnish planes will knock out the bombers.  He pretends he's a gunner on a Finnish plane shooting a Russian bomber down and rushes over to Eero in his bed.  He now tells Eero that he will be the man of the house.  He will take care of mother.  Dad adds that soon he will return and everything will be as it was before. 

Mother and son are alone now.  They start to take a walk into the forest, but see a pastor headed toward them.  Mother gets scared and then really scared when the pastor stops, takes off his hat and looks very solemnly at mother. 

Mother is consumed with grief and Eero has to take care of her by himself.  He has to feed her by hand because she has no appetite.  He tells her she has to eat something.  An air raid siren goes off.  Eero grabs the coats, puts his on and tells mother to put hers on because they have to go.  He can't get mother up, so he runs outside and pretends he is shooting down the Russian planes. 

Some women come to speak with mother.  Mother then comes over to Eero who has been crying.  He tells his mother:  "I'm not going."  But Eero has to go after all.

Mothers and their children are gathered together at a dock.  The mothers are putting the children on a ship bound for Sweden.  Eero is still protesting that he doesn't want to go.  Mother said soon he will be back in Finland and everything will be like it was before.  Sadly, Eero tells her that's what his father told him too.  Eero goes and mother stays and cries. 

On the boat the children sleep in crowded areas.  There are lots of babies crying.  Eero as an adult remembers how all the children wanted to be taken in by a Swedish family and not placed into a children's home, except for him, that is.  They put him on a train and that made him happy because he thought he was going back to Finland.  In reality, the train took him further away from home. 

Eero is handed a white envelope.  On the last leg of his trip, he is the only one left on the bus.  He is dropped off at a farm house where a man and a woman are waiting for him.  He speaks in broken Swedish saying that he is Eero Lahti.  Almost right from the start, Eero senses there's a problem with his being here.  The wife seems upset about something and her eyes are watery.  She starts rushing up the long, up-hill, curving driveway to the farm house.  Dad says that they have a horse and Eero can chop wood.  As they approach the farm house, a little Swedish girl comes riding up on her bike.  She has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Finnish girl and asks if she has arrived yet.  She sees Eero and realizes her mistake, but she still wants to stay.  Dad virtually has to force her to leave.  The little girl keeps saying "nej"  (no). 

Coming into the house, Eero has to remove his hat, coat and his shoes.  In the dining room Eero sees an older man who looks disabled to some degree.  Dad tells Eero that mother's father is sick and can't talk, but he can hear. 

Signe serves the food, but she won't sit with the rest of the family.  Dad opens the envelope given to Eero.  There is a note from his Finnish mother.  She says that Eero can speak a little Swedish.  Eero just repeats the one sentence he learned.  From the kitchen, mother says that he must learn Swedish if he stays here with them.  Mother shows everyone that she is very irritated and appears to be in a rush to do everything.  Father wants to put Eero in the children's room, but mother says to put him on the sofa in the kitchen.

Eero will be taking care of the Skane geese.  After feeding the geese, Eero comes into the house.  Mother speaks brusquely to him and is very impatient with him.  She acts like a wicked step-mother.  After she roughly washes the boy's hands, she tells him that he has to go to school.  He has had about enough of her nasty attitude and starts defending himself by speaking loudly in Finnish.  That just makes mother even madder at him and she tells him that he has to speak Swedish or she can't understand him.  She starts to force him out of the house and he resists.  She forcefully grabs his face and shouts in his face that he has to get going.  Dad takes Eero to the school house on his bike.  But Eero doesn't go in.  He starts to run away, but the teacher sees him and she screams at him that he must be the war child.  Eero stops running.  The teacher shouts that he is welcome to the school.  So, at least, the female teacher is nice. 

Siv, the little Swedish girl that came to visit Eero, is in the class.  At lunch time outside, Eero hears a plane overhead and he runs to the bathroom in the basement of the school.  By chance he ran into the girl's bathroom and when he comes out all the children are laughing at him.  Only Siv doesn't laugh at him.  She feels empathy with his situation.  Eero runs away from the school. 

Back at home, Eero steals some money for the bus.  But the bus won't stop for him.  It just passes him by.  So, Eero just starts walking.  Siv comes by on her bike and asks him where did he go when he was supposed to be in school?  And where is he going now?  She says her mother feels sorry for the war children coming to Sweden because their parents are dead. Eero starts walking again.  Siv invites him over to her place where she has a foal.  Eero just keeps walking.  He reaches the sea and stops to take it in.  He sees soldiers guarding the Swedish coast line.  And then he spots a bunker.  He goes over to it and goes inside.  It's a small area inside.

Eero remembers his biological mother reading to him.  He remembers he asked if his father was afraid of dying?  Mother says she guesses so, because that would mean he couldn't be with Eero anymore.

The Swedish father comes looking for Eero.  It's night and he carries a lantern with him.  He looks inside the bunker and finds Eero. 

The next morning, mother says that Eero doesn't want to be here, right?  In rough Swedish, Eero says that he doesn't like her.  "You are mean."  Mother says he should say that to his biological mother.  Then she pulls out pencil and paper and tells Eero to write a letter to his mother. Eero just watches her.  She then tells him that he doesn't have to go to school or take care of the geese. 

When dad comes homes, he can see his wife is upset.  He asks her what's going on?  She tells him about the boy:  "He's obnoxious, he's ungrateful.  He thinks this is a vacation."  She then says she is going to write to the Aid Committee to take the boy back.  And, of course, Eero is listening to everything mother says. 

Eero waits down by the road at the mail box.  The postman comes by, but has no mail for the family today.  Then a woman is driven up to the house in a car.   She is from the Aid Committee.  The woman tells the temporary parents:  "So you want to get rid of the child?"  Mother says that the boy doesn't want to stay here anyway.  The committee woman says it's not unusual that war children are troublesome at first.  After all, they don't always know what's best for them.  Signe can't hold her anger in and she starts acting a little unhinged.  She says she can't take it anymore.  It's easy to see that Signe is the problem and not her husband. 

Eero says he is going to go home to Finland.  The committee woman says that's impossible.  His mother doesn't live in the house anymore.  She moved.  The committee woman then pulls out a letter from the biological mother.  The woman then says that the committee will find a place for Eero in a children's home.  Both parents now seem alarmed, but Hjalmar Jönsson is really upset.  He says they can take better care of the boy than a children's home can.  So the parents agree to try again with Eero. 

Mother is a bit upset that Eero talks a lot with her husband, but not with her.  She's a bit envious at the two males bonding with each other.  She complains that the boy doesn't talk to her at all.  Hjalmar tells her that it will get better, just as the committee woman said.  It's just that Signe shouldn't be so hard on the boy.  Signe replies it's not about Eero.  It's about her not being able to take this situation anymore.  "I'm falling apart, and you don't see a thing!"  She complains that her husband thinks it's all so simple:  "Give Signe another kid and everything's fine.  But it isn't."  She asks how can she be a good mother when the child to her is a stranger?"  The boy is a child that she doesn't want.  She's goes on and on badgering her husband until he finally tells her to shut up!  "Signe, you're the one making him a stranger.  It's you!"

Eero is building a raft, probably to head off for Finland.  Dad brings him some lumber to help built the raft.  Eero tells him not to say anything to Signe.  They shake on it. 

Signe visits the grave of her child. 

The parents read the letter from Eero's mother out loud.  She is working now at the German Headquarters in Helsinki.  She has rented a room.  And the biological mother doesn't want Eero to know about this.  But, of course, Eero is listening to everything the temporary parents are saying.  Finally, Hjalmar sees Eero listening.  He tells him that his mother has written him a letter too. 

Siv is tired of Eero's bad attitude.  It says in an article on war children that they are very grateful to their hosts.  Eero start walking away from her.  She says:  "Grateful, it says!  We're good to you, but you're angry and boring!  They could've sent us someone nice."  Siv follows Eero home.  She shouts out to him:  "Wait!  I know something I mustn't tell you!"

Siv takes Eero up on the top floor.  She gets the key and enters the children's room.  She goes into the closet and pull out a girl's dress.  Signe suddenly shows up and she is mad at Siv for showing the room to Eero.  Siv runs out of the room and the house.  Now Signe slaps Eero saying:  "You've no business being here.  This isn't your home."  This hurts Eero's feelings and he runs out of the room and downstairs.  He keeps running all the way to the bunker by the coast.  He remembers back to Finland when the people came to take him to Sweden.  He tries to stop them from getting into the house with a broom.  The nurse takes the broom from Eero and slaps him on the face.  Then Eero's mother slaps the nurse.

The next day Eero goes back to the house.  Again he watches for the mail.  Signe picks up the mail.  In the mail was a letter from his mother.  Signe tells Eero that his mother wrote to give her love to Eero. 

It's Christmas and Signe has Siv and her family over to her house.  The dinner is over and Hjalmar wants to get up.  Signe asks him to remain seated.  Just then the telephone rings.  It's a phone call for Eero.  He is shocked to hear his mother's voice.  The call is not long because she gets cut-off.

Siv's father comes running over to the farm screaming that the Russians have bombed Helsinki.  The people rush to the radio to hear the news of the bombing.  The damage was extensive.

Two coastal soldiers find Eero in the sea trying to get back onto his raft.  They have to pull the boy out of the water.  The soldiers bring Eero back to the farm house where Signe yells at him.

Back to the present.  The adult Eero tells his mother.  "You did survive, but I wasn't important to you."  Mom asks him:  "Do you want me to have a guilty conscience again?"  She also asks why didn't Eero speak of what happened to him in Sweden when he came back to Finland?  Eero says that when he came back from Sweden:  "You weren't my mother anymore."

Flashback.  Another letter comes from Eero's mother.  Eero demands to know what the letter says.  Signe reads the letter and seems upset by it. 

Eero is so upset that he starts throwing the feed at the geese instead of putting it out in the trough.  Siv sees him doingt his and she starts screaming for him to stop.  Signe comes and stops Eero from throwing the grain.  She tries to hold him, but he bites her and she has to let him go  Siv gives Eero a photo that Signe dropped walking up to the house from the mail box.  The photo of of Eero's mother with her boyfriend, a German soldier. 

Once again Eero goes down by the bunker.  He sits on the grass and watches the sea.  He imagines his mother being with the German soldier.

Eero returns home.  He finds his mother's letter on the table and reads it.  Her German boyfriend wanted her to go back to Germany with him.  She is torn, however, between her boyfriend and Eero.  She says it wouldn't be fair to take Eero to Germany because now Germany is the least safe place in the world.  She asks Signe to keep her boy for awhile more.  After all, Signe can give Eero all the love that he needs.  She asks Signe to please think about it, ". . . but don't tell Eero yet." 

The letter saddens Eero, but this time Signe actually hugs the boy instead of yelling at him.  Later, Signe takes a walk just with Eero.  She has decided to tell Eero about her past and how it effects her and Eero's relationship.  She says she and Hjalmar had a little girl.  Her name was Elin.  Signe shows Elin's grave to Eero.  She was born in 1936 and died in 1942.  Her daughter drowned when she was only six years of age.  Signe then admits that it was her fault.  Elin was never allowed to go down to the sea when the winds were high.  Then two years ago there was a bad storm and Elin kept begging her mother to take her down to see the sea.  Signe resisted until she gave up and let Elin go down to look at the sea by herself. 

Signe also admits that when Eero first came to them, she was very upset.  She had wanted a girl, not a boy. 

Signe takes the boy into the children's room.  Now the room is all cleaned up and neat.  She shows Eero the closet where he can hang his clothes.  Now she sits on the bed and asks Eero to sit beside her.  He sits.  They stay seated without saying anything. 

With Eero down by the sea, the family has a family portrait taken by a professional photographer. 

Back to the present.  Eero looks at the family portrait taken that day.  He hears a van drive up.  It's the caterers with the food.  And now the cars start coming to the farm house. 

Flashback.  Down by the coast, the family presents Eero with a brand new bike.  Eero is pleased and he goes riding with the other kids running after him.

Signe now writes back to Eero's mother.  She says that if her love for the German is so strong, maybe she should go with him to Germany.  "I guarantee you that the boy is like our own now. . . .  I'll do my best to be the best of mothers."

The day arrives when the Finnish children will be sent back to Finland.  Signe is very upset about it.  And Eero is also upset about going back now. 

Signe tries to console Eero when she puts him to bed.  She may have gone too far for she says that Eero will stay with them forever here in Sweden.  Now go to sleep.

Signe gets a letter from Eero's mother.  And once again she is very upset at the letter.  The letter says that the German boyfriend left her behind, so now she would like to have Eero back. 

Signe thinks the whole situation is unfair.  If the German would have stayed with Eero's biological mother, then they would still be raising Eero.  The biological mother is not a good mother because she voluntarily gave up her son to them.  "First I lose a child, then I lose another child.  Is that fair?"  She says she won't give up her second child.  She gets so upset that she breaks down crying. 

The car of the Aid Committee comes to the farm house.  Mother has to tell Eero it's time to go.  Eero starts fighting to not be put into the car.  He cries out for his mother Signe.  Signe comes out and starts running after the car.  Eero watches her from the back of the car. 

Eero arrives back in Finland.  His mother is the only mother not there to greet him.  She is running late.  After everyone has left, mother comes running up to Eero.  She hugs her son.  Eero doesn't say a word. 

One day Eero gets a letter from Signe.  Eero has the letter returned to the sender.  And now he's mad at his biological mother.  When she tries to touch his hand, he pulls it away from her. 

Back to the present.   Eero says to his old mother:  "I could never believe what you said.  I thought you'd disappear at any moment."  He says that along with the funeral invitation to come to Sweden, Signe sent two letters she wanted Eero to see.  He did not read the letters until he got back to the Swedish farm house.  One of the letters was sent to Eero's mother.  It says that life on the farm now feels empty without Eero.  Sending Eero away was hard to do and she damned Eero's mother because she felt that she did not love Eero.  Eero never knew that his biological mother wanted him back.  So now it's time for the mother to let Eero read her letter to Signe proving that his biological mother did love him.  "He must know." Signed Signe. 

Eero read his biological mother's letter where she clearly states that she loved her son more than she loved her German boyfriend. "How could I even consider leaving my own child?"

Eero says to his biological mother.  "60 years -- a lifetime.  It sounds ridiculous, but somehow it feels as if part of us had been left there, in Skane.  That's where I decided never to miss you."  But now he understands it all.  He reaches out to his mother with his right hand and she bends closer to him. 

Alone Eero cries a little thinking of what happened to him and his family and his second family.

 

Terrific movie.  I guess you could call it a tear jerker, but at least you don't feel tricked into something too melancholic.  My wife and I both enjoyed the film very much.  The Swedish woman rejected the Finnish boy because she was still grieving over her deceased little girl who died at the age of six.  So the boy Eero didn't like the Swedish woman Signe and she didn't like him.  Signe quickly reaches the point where she would throw her hands up and say she can't take it anymore.  Just when things looked their worse, more bad news for the boy starts changing Signe's attitude toward Eero.  It's a very emotionally moving film that's well worth watching.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

 

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