All the Sins S1: A Non-Spoiler Review

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Image is a montage of scenes from All the Sins S1. The central image is the theatrical poster for the show

🇫🇮 ALL THE SINS S1 🇫🇮

ALL THE SINS S1 (2019) aka Kaikki synnit is a Finnish TV crime, drama, mystery series available on All4 Walter Presents U.K., PBS Masterpiece US & Can, Binge Aus. 6 x 45 min episodes. 18 Cert U.K. Finnish with subtitles. 

Premise:  

“After leaving home 10 years ago, Detective Lauri Raiha is sent to investigate the murders of two men in the small northern Finnish town where he grew up. The investigation offers a way to escape couples’ therapy and his failing relationship with his husband. But going home forces him to face his family and the deeply religious Laestadian community that rejected him many years previously. Together with his partner, Sanna Tervo, a carefree soul on the surface, but also someone who has their own difficult past, Lauri seeks answers to the case only to discover other truths about himself, his home town, and whether one has the power to forgive all sins.” Sky Vision 

Cast: 

Johannes Holopainen as Lauri Räihä

Maria Sid as Sanna Tervo

Matti Ristinen as Jussi Ritola 

Hannu Kivioja as Martti Räihä

Risto Tuorila as Matti Mustapää

Tuula Väänänen as Maarit Räihä

Kreeta Salminen as Leena Niemitalo 

Timo Pesonen as Reima Lindman 

Karim Rapatti as Fahid Nasir

Jaakko Ohtonen as Aaro Leppihalme 

Heli Haapalainen as Terhi Lindman 

The English language poster for All the Sins

Crew: 

Director: Mika Ronkainen 

Creator: Merja Aakko & Mika Ronkainen 

Writers: Merja Aakko & Mika Ronkainen 

Cinematographer: Jani Kumpulainen 

Music: Jussi Jaakonaho 

Editor: Tambet Tasuja 

Make-Up Designer: Kati Koskela

Production Design: Päïvi Kettunen 

Notes: 

The title music for All the Sins is by Aino Venna. 

Filming locations include: Oulu, Lumijoki and Tyrnävä all in Finland 

Information about Conservative Laestadianism: 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservative_Laestadianism

Finns and the sauna: https://medium.com/the-politics-practices-and-poetics-of-openness/conversations-from-the-sauna-on-privacy-openness-nudity-and-coming-together-abeff0f2530a

The Finnish theatrical poster for the show All the Sins

Review: 

I watched All the Sins series 1 much earlier this year and decided it was time to revisit it with this review in mind. Certain scenes and themes had stuck with me during the interim and I was curious to see whether they were just as impactful upon a rewatch. I was also sure I must have missed certain things the first time around, especially as I recalled it having a lot of religious symbolism. 

I had also researched a bit about the Laestadian church (at the most basic level this consisted of finding out whether it actually exists) which made for some “interesting” reading. (See link in Notes above) 

Kreeta Salminen (Leena Niemitalo) left and Saimi Räty (Ida Niematalo) right in a scene from All the Sins

One aspect of this show that made a big impression upon me is the opening credit sequence which is a fabulous marriage of images and music. Never before have I watched opening credits that feature cows so prominently. Not only cows but a collection of objects set in the same field: an old swing seat with bedraggled teddy bears, a weathered, broken organ, a table laid with a tablecloth and candelabra, yet another table with dead flowers in a vase, a set of scales such as those found in old shops, a worn rocking chair, another chair, a rusting (child’s?) bike. It is sunset and in the river, amongst the reeds, there are a wonky cross and a gazing ball. It’s worth noting here that gazing balls such as these are designed to ward off evil. I don’t think it’s too hard to link the worn and decayed objects in the credits to the Laestadians and others in the story. 

Jaako Ohtonen (Aaro Leppihalme) right in All the Sins

All the Sins revolves around the concept of forgiveness and whether literally anything and everything can be forgiven. Rape, violence, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, lust, corruption, murder, adultery, envy… We see immorality on all levels and those whose moral compasses are very skewed indeed. 

Johannes Holopainen (Lauri Räihä) left and Maria Sid (Sanna Tervo) right in a scene from All the Sins

Our two central characters of Lauri Räihä and Sanna Tervo both carry their “sins”. Both run away and avoid important personal issues and feelings at the start of this story but by the end have confronted and accepted them allowing true progress instead of being “stuck”. 

The former escaped the far north and the abuse of his Laestadian family and community years before but by heck he carries the scars. Not long into this show, we see him vomit from just being outside his former school. His “sin” in the eyes of his family and that community is that he is gay and it is his treatment by his father and the community as a whole that has left him so damaged and upon occasion so violent. Later he is also saddled with the guilt attached to his leaving as a teenager. 

Rosa Honkonen (Silvia Tervo) in a scene from All the Sins

Sanna would be deemed sinful by her very relaxed attitude towards having sex and being a “murderer”. She too is saddled with trauma and guilt along with a daughter from whom she is estranged (what IS it with these shows and teenagers?) 

Hannes Suominen (Mikko Kemppainen) left and Johannes Holopainen (Lauri Räihä) in a scene from All the Sins

For both of these detectives alcohol is used to self-medicate (that would be a sin for Laestadians). It’s interesting to note that since smoking is allowed (who knows why?) Lauri and other characters make the most of it! 

Timo Pesonen (Reima Lindman) left and Moona Komulainen (Nína Lindman) right in a scene from All the Sins

There is an attempted development in the town and we see that there are difficulties for anyone who is not a Laustie. The tower promoting the development is dominating the view in the way that a church spire would do and it’s symbolic of this conflict between a business-driven future and a religion-based past. It’s just a shame that the guy behind the development is such a slime ball. The tower coming down is very symbolic… but what does it really mean for the town? 

Karim Rapatti (Fahid Nasir) in a scene from All the Sins

The Muslim owners of the pizzeria not only face discrimination within the community in which they live and pressure from outside, but as their story unfolds we see that they too have suffered almost unimaginable losses which have left deep scars. 

Religion, belief and superstition play a major part with not only the Laestadians but the Muslims in the story and assumptions made about them, the anti-religion group and birds used as omens. There is a lot of religious (Christian) symbolism such as the deliberate crossroads that are often shown from above and the cross on the tiles of the pool when Lauri is swimming. 

At this point, I’d like to mention the wonderful cinematography because there is no doubt that All the Sins is a visually impressive piece of television. We see beautiful aerial shots above fields of crops, isolated houses, roads etc. and portrait-like atmospheric frames. 

The song near the end of the final episode in a montage of clips is “Drop Me Down” by Mikko Joensuu. It is this song that is used at the end of every episode. The musical score throughout picks up on the piano at the start of this song, using a lot of percussive simple piano which then often expands into the creepy and unsettling. 

As for the story itself, its link to the themes I have mentioned and Laestadianism, it is shocking how sins committed by those who like to believe themselves as the saved have such devastating results years later. Just as shocking is the fact that the concept of these sins and asking for forgiveness at the risk of being shunned by the community that has raised you and burning in the fires of Hell is still perpetuated. This, I must say, made me very cross indeed. The dominance of men in the whole process, and in every other major position in the community, was another aspect that got me very hot under the collar. 

Parts of All the Sins are genuinely very upsetting indeed and the performances are all terrific. For me, Johannes Holopainen was outstanding as the damaged Lauri and his performance reduced me to tears more than once. Maria Sid brings a real humanity and range to her role as Sanna. The youngsters in the cast all impressed greatly. 

This is challenging television and I can see how it will not be everybody’s cup of tea but I thought it was terrific and even better upon a second viewing. Finnish weird definitely has its appeal and I’m looking forward to rewatching season 2 soon and season 3 when it (hopefully) arrives. 

Matti Ristinen (Jussi Ritola) in a scene from All the Sins

Awards:

1 win and 4 nominations: 

Win: 

Göteborg Film Festival (2019) Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize, Annual award for outstanding writing of a Nordic drama series ~ Mika Ronkainen & Merja Aakko 

Nominations:,

Kultainen Venla (2020) Best Actor ~ Johannes Holopainen 

Zurich Film Festival (2020) Golden Eye Best International Series ~ Mika Ronkainen, Merja Aakko & Ilkka Matila 

Trailer: 

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