You’ll never be able to look at Moomin mugs the same after you see Alli Haapasalo’s glorious drama Girl Picture.
Hitting theaters on Friday after a successful run at Sundance earlier this year, the Finnish-language story follows three young women played by Aamu Milonoff, Linnea Leino, and Eleonoora Kauhanenon on journeys of self-discovery, which cross paths and overlap in beautiful and dramatic ways.
One particularly memorable through-line in the movie is the recurring bit when Kauhanen’s character, Rönkkö, begins to nervously babble to a cute boy at a party about how, in Finland, Moomin mugs are known to have another life outside of just holding one’s morning coffee — it was once common practice for Finnish couples going through fertility treatments to use the mugs to temporarily hold sperm samples. Something about the smooth surface of the mugs made it the perfect vessel to keep the sample in good condition, Rönkkö explains to her slightly put-off new friend. Interesting!
If you’re not familiar with Moomin mugs, they’re the most adorable mugs on the planet, featuring characters from Finnish author Tove Jansson’s classic children’s books and corresponding 1990s TV series. Moomin is kind of like the Mickey Mouse of Finland. This reporter has two Moomin mugs in her cupboard right now, and she highly recommends them (for tea and coffee drinking, of course). Just look at how cute they are.
Haapasalo says despite perfectly executing the hilarious bit, none of the movie’s Gen-Z cast members were familiar with the Moomin mug’s alternative uses.
“Nobody in the generation of the twenty-somethings who were in the film knew anything about that Moomin mug method,” Haapasalo told MovieMaker. “I guess it had sort of become outdated, because now in Finland, actually, lesbian couples can also get fertility treatments. But when I was younger, that was the whole method. So it was a big, well-known thing.”
Aside from that one very Finnish detail, Girl Picture is remarkably relatable to non-Finnish audiences — Americans alike. That was all completely accidental, Haapasalo says.
“I never thought the film would travel… it was not in my plans or in my dreams that it would go to Sundance,” she said. “That has been a very happy surprise to me, that it doesn’t have any cultural obstacles. It’s a foreign language film, and it even looks kind of like a documentary, in a way, stylistically. That doesn’t seem to build any sort of barrier in terms of relating to the characters and and feeling very identified with them. But we get a lot of American comments, specifically, about how people feel seen in this film. So that to me, has been like a really big gift.”
Part of what makes Girl Picture so relatable in such a timely way is that it centers queer storylines — and doesn’t punish its characters for their sexuality.
“It became kind of like a mission from the get-go to be able to create female characters who I would have wanted to see in films when I was growing up. And sort of when I was that age of those girls, because truth be told, there are very few that I can say I identified with,” she said.
“There are a lot of people who have told me that they kept expecting something bad to happen to these girls from beginning to end. Some people have even said that they couldn’t relax, because they were so afraid that the bad thing is coming. There is no bad thing that happens because this movie is making the statement that girls are not always victims. Girls don’t get punished for desiring. Girls don’t get belittled for their behavior,” she added. “But we are so sort of conditioned for that to happen that many people have said that that was a really big epiphany for them.”
Main Image: Eleonoora Kauhanen and Aamu Milonof in Girl Picture. Photo by Ilkka Saastamoinen, courtesy of Citizen Jane Productions