The Movie Waffler Raindance 2023 Review - PALIMPSEST | The Movie Waffler

Raindance 2023 Review - PALIMPSEST

Palimpsest review
An elderly man and woman undergo gene therapy to reverse the aging process.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Hanna Västinsalo

Starring: Krista Kosonen, Riitta Havukainen, Emma Kilpimaa, Leo Sjöman, Antti Virmavirta, Kaisu Mäkelä

Palimpsest poster

While our bodies age in linear fashion, the same isn't always true of our brains. Some people remain immature throughout their lives while others feel like a pensioner trapped in a young person's body. Some are terrified of aging while others embrace it. Through a sci-fi concept, Finnish writer/director Hanna Marjo Västinsalo examines what it means to age.

Palimpsest review

The film is set in a near future where a form of gene therapy allows people to de-age. A pair of octogenarians - Juhani and Tellu - have opted for the treatment, but for different reasons. Juhani's wife is dying and has asked him to de-age so he can be around for their daughter and grandson. Tellu simply wants to be young again.

The pair are coupled together as roommates in the clinic while they undergo their treatment, which occurs in stages. At first we see them regress a decade or so, which is achieved through simple makeup effects. Feeling 70 rather than 80, Juhani finds his intelligence returning and embraces being able to watch and understand the sci-fi shows he once loved before his mind became muddled. Tellu rediscovers sexual feelings, purchasing a vibrator to enjoy the return of such physical sensations and enjoying a knee-trembler with a hospital porter. She develops a crush on Juhani, but he appears disinterested.

Palimpsest review

At the point at which Juhani and Tellu now resemble thirtysomethings (and played by actors of that generation), their priorities begin to further diverge. Losing his wife and seeing his daughter's disgusted reaction to him looking like her younger brother rather than her father, Juhani regrets the treatment and asks about having it reversed, which he's told is impossible. While Juhani halts his treatment, Tellu continues, becoming a 20-year-old and expressing a desire to regress even further. Juhani wants to put his now young mind to work and enrolls in college, while Tellu throws herself into the pleasures of occupying a youthful body, having sex with various strangers while still harbouring feelings for Juhani, who becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the growing age-gap between the pair.

Palimpsest certainly has an interesting premise but it never quite figures out what it's trying to say. It could be read as a trans allegory in Tellu's continuing search for a body she's comfortable with and Juhani's daughter's unwillingness to accept her father's new form, but if this is the intention it's rather thinly explored. Some of the film's ideas have been covered in previous films. The early scenes of Tellu throwing herself into sex and other physical activities while still appearing like an elderly woman recall Ron Howard's Cocoon. The later awkward relationship between the ostensibly thirtysomething Juhani and the increasingly youthful Tellu is an inferior cousin of the central idea of William Dieterle's Portrait of Jennie.

Palimpsest review

Still, there's an undeniable charm to Västinsalo's film in the relationship between Juhani and Tellu, and the various actors that inhabit their roles do a fine job of convincing us that we're always watching the same two characters regardless of how young they might appear. But there's also a sadness in how it explicitly portrays how men are still largely judged by their maturity and women by their youthfulness.

Palimpsest screens at Raindance 2023 on October 29th.

2023 movie reviews