Wilms plays Marcel Marx, a shoeshiner beloved in his neighborhood but with little money (he's run up insanely large tabs at all the stores in the vicinity of his house that he'll never pay). He lives a modest life with his wife Arletty (Kari Outinen), always cleaning and cooking, and his dog Laika (credited as Laika; Kaurismaki's dog perhaps?). This balance is complicated by two major events: his wife getting really sick and having to be hospitalized, and the finding and taking in of an on-the-run African immigrant named Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) who is looking to find his mother in London.
The idea works better in practice than in theory, but all the same, the freedoms that the movie seems to be on the verge of giving its characters are shut out (by Kaurismaki's intense devotion to his method, no less). The fact that I'm even talking about these things though represents an atmospheric success remarked upon by other critics: the sense of place here is quite solid. But things never come alive to quite the degree that they could, though having Little Bob meet up with his estranged wife (who is supposedly his wife in real life as well) is a nice, interesting way of opening the movie up. B