Film review

On the Water, Peeter Simm

Ralph Blaine

Last month the Estonian Ambassador, recently installed in his new embassy in the renovated heritage house at 168 Daly, offered IMAGE two tickets to On the Water. This is the most recent film by Estonian film director Peeter Simm, which was shown on November 29 at the European Film Festival. We were delighted to get the tickets and share our experience with you.

Peeter Simm was born in Soviet Estonia in 1953 and graduated from a Moscow film school in 1976. His first full-length film, Ideal Landscape (1980), dealt with life on an Estonian collective farm and has been hailed as the best Estonian film ever made. It was immediately banned by the Soviet state. Simm then pivoted to a children’s film, Arabella (1982), and went on to direct many more films, both before and after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

On the Water is like a remake of a Tom Sawyer movie — except with more fishing. Andres, our hero, even has a Huck- Finn-like sidekick who is, well, constantly fishing. In his small town, Andres is surrounded by a rough-and-tumble crew of seemingly feckless adults. The men may beat their wives; the women may fight in the streets, but in the end, they are always there to guide Andres through the usual thicket of adolescent trials. Rest assured that the school bullies are subdued; a golden-haired girl is beguiled and Andres is soon catching more pike, pickerel, and perch than his grandmother’s frying pan can deal with. What film director can resist a coming-of-age story? Simm gives us no original takes on this genre, but he does offer charm and a few sly winks at the commissars of the Soviet era in which the movie is set.

The Estonian Embassy in Ottawa officially opened its chancery at 168 Daly Ave. on November 21, 2022. Ambassador Margus Rava (right) hosted Estonian President Alar Karis (centre), as well as other Canadian, European, and Estonian dignitaries, in the restored limestone home.
Photo Samuel Garcia