MiniReview: "Tom of Finland" (film)



A poster that really captures the epic quality of this film.  

What is it?

It’s a Finnish film from 2017 directed by Dome Karukoski.


I don’t really need to ask what it’s about. Tom of Finland was that artist of homoerotic pencil drawings that guys used to wank off to, before the Internet.

Yes. He’s so sensitively portrayed in this film by actor Pekka Strang that I wish I could say I like Tom of Finland's art, but I find it pretty tacky.


Come on! Those beautiful, voluptuous, curvy, muscly hunks!!

Let’s just say they’re not my type and leave the artistic criticism to others.


Okay. Anyway, we’re talking about the film. Was his life really all that interesting?

It was, in a Nordic, melancholy kind of way. He was a soldier in the Second World War, and then tried to live a gay life in the extremely repressive atmosphere of postwar Finland. His art seems to have been a way for him to express his fantasies, which wasn’t easy in real life. He didn’t think he’d be able to get them published, but his lovely boyfriend encouraged him to send them out, and eventually they got published in the United States and he became a gay icon.


And the film? Is it as raunchy as Tom of Finland’s art?

Not at all. I must say, my expectations were quite low as I began watching this film because, as mentioned above, I’m not a fan of the art. But the film is in a completely different artistic register. It’s quiet, tender, romantic in a queer way, imaginative. For a gay film, there’s remarkably little sex, although it is very sensual. I think I’m in love with the actor who plays Tom, by the way.


Okay, the latter comment isn’t really appropriate in a review, but go on.

He’s very understated, not at all like Tom’s art. And when Tom eventually goes to the US, he undergoes quite a culture shock when he sees how openly gay men live there. And then the AIDS epidemic hits, and he feels guilty, as if his erotic art has contributed somehow to the spread of the virus. But finally he decides to use his art to spread the word about safe sex. So it’s quite a ride, from wartime drama to postwar repression to fame in America to disillusionment to a comfortable fame.



I’m going to give this two stars! It’s a visually stunning, elegant, engrossing, moving story of one gay man trying to find love in an inhospitable climate, and at the same time a mini history of gay lives from the 1940s through to the 1980s. An important contribution to gay cinema.

    That said, though, and in the interest of complete disclosure, I might only give it one star if it wasn't for the fact that I find Pekka Strang so sexy.


My god, you are so unprofessional.

I know. And look, I gotta run. I'm off to Helsinki to see if all the guys look like that.



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