Mister 8 : ‘Canneseries’ Review – A Comedic Yet Tense Look At The Practicality Of Polyamory
Romantic comedies as a sub-genre has proven to be instrumental in setting the bar for unrealistic expectations among heterosexual couples. Simultaneously, it has ended up being the cheapest form of storytelling as it provides no new insight on the concept of love and diminishes the chances of more queer romances getting green-lit. And due to its popularity, here we are watching the same old story being told by different writers and directors and the same old characters being portrayed by the latest fresh faces. Thankfully, Mister 8 (2021) is here to break this monotony, while catering to its largely heterosexual demographic and expanding the horizon of what we consider to be romance.
Mister 8, directed and co-written by Teemu Nikki along with co-writers Vesa Virtanen and Antero Jokinen, follows Juho (Pekka Strang) as he moves to a Finnish city for his new job as a chemical engineer. He checks into a hotel, watches TV, and then proceeds to go on a blind date. But his blind date never arrives. Present at the restaurant, where he was meant to meet his date, is Maria (Krista Kosonen), whose date has also failed to arrive. Some initial confusion between the two leads to a fruitful conversation and a one-night stand. Or is it? Well, no it’s not because the next morning, Maria low-key challenges Juho to pursue her, in response to his hints at entering a serious relationship. So, he stalks her aggressively, only to find out that Maria is in a relationship with seven men, a different man for every day.
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After reading this description and the title of the show, you might be thinking that Juho is the eighth man in this arrangement. But there’s the problem, right? There aren’t eight days in a week. However, that issue is solved rather easily because one of the boyfriends, Tuukka (Olli Rahkonen) messes up by lying to Maria. Since it’s a big no-no in her book, she fires him and brings in Juho.
That said, there’s yet another caveat. Juho is in love with Maria and wants her all to himself. Interestingly enough, so is Maria. This means that either Juho has to convince Maria to take up monogamy or eliminate each of the boyfriends, like a romantic battle royale game. And by doing so, Nikki, along with his co-writers, begin to pose interesting questions about the feasibility of polyamory, toxic masculinity, and whether Juho is the real villain of this story.
From an incredibly idealistic point of view, Maria is well within her rights to do something like this. She is the CEO of a successful company. She has all the money in the world. She has achieved everything she possibly can, apart from solving her daddy issues, which is probably why she’s filling that void with so many men? Probably, indeed. So, why should she stick to just one guy who can only fulfill some of her needs and not go for seven different guys who can satisfy her completely?
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On paper, her plan is pretty fool-proof as well as it ensures that no one crosses anyone’s path and is compensated properly. But the problem is that human nature is fickle. Nobody knows how one is going to act until one is in that situation. And we’ve seen what insanity people in a monogamous relationship are capable of doing. Therefore, you can only imagine the kind of chaos 8-9 people in a polyamorous relationship can create.
Now, it’s fascinating to see how Mister 8 presents Juho as the antagonist who comes out of nowhere and upends an apparently smooth-running operation where everyone is being loved, physically and mentally, and getting paid for it. That said, here’s the thing. Juho isn’t the one who breaks the status quo. It’s Tuukka. This means, Juho or no Juho, someone was bound to breach Maria’s contract. You can say that the way Juho manipulates Pelle (Chike Ohanwe) is wrong.
Really? Are you sure? Because Pelle is disrespectful, offensive, and he lies to Maria for no reason whatsoever. If Pelle prioritized Maria over Juho’s dick-measuring contest (metaphorical, of course), nothing would’ve happened to him. However, deep down, he wants to be Maria’s #1 boyfriend, even if it costs him his relationship with her. Weird, yes. But that’s the way toxic masculinity functions.
In addition to the twisted storytelling, Mister 8 delivers via every other department as well. The performance from every single cast member is top-notch, with Strang and Kosonen clearly being the highlights. The editing by Kerttu Jaatinen, Nikki, and Vilja Harjamäki is excellent and features a never-before-seen technique of doing a sex scene without showing any nudity or the act itself while maintaining the eroticism of the process.
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But it’s Jarmi Kiuru’s cinematography that is a head-scratcher. Why go for black and white? To look artsy? To seem serious? Or to contradict the complexity of the plot itself and even mock Maria and her seven boyfriends for thinking that they’ve found a simple i.e. black-and-white formula for conducting polyamory? Well, whichever one’s the real reason, there’s no denying that the show is pleasing to the eyes. It allows viewers to dive deeper and deeper into the intricacies of the plot instead of being overwhelmed by the visuals.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a rom-com that isn’t just about a guy going after a girl or vice versa, and has a healthy dab of thrill to it, then Mister 8 is the show for you. Despite tackling something like polyamory, it has a universal appeal. So, before it gets adapted by a North American studio or streaming platform, please make sure to catch it in its original form.
Mister 8 was screened at the Cannes International Series Festival
Original Title: Mister 8
Written by: Vesa Virtanen (all episodes), Teemu Nikki (episode 1), Antero Jokinen (episode 2)
Directed by: Teemu Nikki
Photography: Jarmi Kiuru
Editing : Kerttu Jaatinen (episodes 2, 3, 5, 6), Teemu Nikki (episode 1, 8), Vilja Harjamäki (episode 4)
Music: Timo Kaukolampi, Tuomo Puranen
Cast: Pekka Strang, Krista Kosonen, Olli Rahkonen, Chike Ohanwe, Elias Westerberg, Amir Escandari, Ville Tiihonen, Joonas Saartamo, Jari Virman, Matti Onnismaa, Hannamaija Nikander, Jouko Puolanto
Production: It’s Alive Films
Sales: Federation International TBA
Broadcast: Elisa Viihde (Finland)