Tottumiskysymys [Force of Habit] (2019)

Director: Reetta Aalto, Alli Haapasalo, Anna Paavilainen, Kirsikka Saari, Miia Tervo, Elli Toivoniemi, Jenni Toivoniemi
Writer: Reetta Aalto, Alli Haapasalo, Anna Paavilainen, Kirsikka Saari, Miia Tervo, Elli Toivoniemi, Jenni Toivoniemi
Cast: Julia Lappalainen, Veikko Aalste, Tommi Eronen, Joel Hirvonen, Johannes Holopainen, Elina Knihtilä, Krista Kosonen, Seidi Haarla, Jarkko Pajunen, Pirjo Lonka, Ella Lahdenmäki, Niina Hosiasluoma, Samuli Niittymäki, Pinja Sanaksenaho, Eero Ritala, Suvi Blick
Seen on: 21.8.2020

Content Note: rape, sexual assault, rape culture

In several episodes, the film looks at various stories of sexualized violence. There’s Emppu (Julia Lappalainen), an actress who struggles with the rape scene in her play. Hilla (Krista Kosonen) and Kristian (Eero Ritala) are on holidays, when Hilla gets groped and it puts a shadow over their entire trip. Emmi (Suvi Blick) finds herself cornered by a friend after a party. At an office party Katja (Seidi Haarla) mentions that she was assaulted by a colleague, leading to a fall out with her co-workers. Milja (Pinja Sanaksenaho) is chatted up on the bus and things turn ugly. And Aleksi (Johannes Holopainen) is a young attorney who gets handed a rape case on short notice.

Force of Habit takes a look at how society deals with sexual violence, but mostly it focuses on the impact it has on the people who were violated, even when the violation doesn’t seem “so bad”.

The film poster showing the six main characters in pink monochrome and, smaller, three scenes in color.

There are six stories here and there is only one story that is actually concerned with rape (showing the failures of the justice system when dealing with rape cases). Another story is about how we deal with fictional rape, what it means for the actors who have to act out those rape scenes and the meaning we attach to rape. In a very effective scene – the film’s very last – Emppu, the actress, is shown walking away from the theater after the premiere. As she walks through the park, a man runs up to – and the past her. But there is a moment here where the audience worries, mirroring the constant underlying worry women walk around with.

In the other stories, one could brush the incidents away: it’s just guys flirting, maybe a little too aggressively. Women should just forget about it. It is in these stories that the film is at its strongest because it shows that those things aren’t actually trivial and they affect the women even after they are over and the situations are defused. Plus, the reactions from the people around them to their part to reinforce the impact of the original incidents by disregarding and belittling the effect they had.

Emppu (Julia Lappalainen) in the dressing room, having her clothes fitted for the play.

I can imagine that Force of Habit could be an excellent primer for people who have never thought about sexualized violence and rape culture beyond “it’s bad”. People who have a little more knowledge will definitely find themselves nodding along with the film. And there will probably be a lot of people, particularly women and genderqueer folk, will see their own experiences reflected in the film.

That the film may sometimes be a little too didactic lies in the nature of things and shouldn’t distract from the fact that it makes good points with interesting stories and an excellent cast.

Hilla (Krista Kosonen) and Kristian (Eero Ritala) on holiday in Portugal.

Summarizing: you should see it.

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