Varpu, a sensitive and big-hearted 12-year-old, has never known her father, and her mother Siru acts more like a younger sister than a parent. Though Varpu’s occupied by school and her equestrian team training by day, when she returns home in the evenings Siru seems to demand more mothering than she actually provides, instead opting to vent about one of the perpetual string of sketchy or otherwise hopeless men she’s auditioned for the role of significant other lately. After a particularly frustrating evening with her riding buddies, Varpu has had enough. She commandeers a car and hits the road alone to find her birth father, who she thinks she’s located with only a vague name. She heads north, on just a little wing and a prayer.
Director Selma Vilhunen, Oscar®-nominated in 2014 for the short film Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?, which she co-directed, deploys both humor and charm in great quantities to make what on the surface could seem like a farfetched runaway fantasy seem eminently relatable and grounded in reality. Each new acquaintance Varpu encounters on her journey seems destined for quirky road film cliché before Vilhunen inevitably zigs where an ordinary director would zag, nesting unexpected layers within characters who occupy the rather drab and predictable facade of Finnish modernia. What results is a satisfying coming-of-age dramedy that wins you over in unassuming fashion with real depth, real warmth, and, most profoundly, real people.