12 user 21 critic

Heart of a Lion (2013)

Leijonasydän (original title)
Neo-Nazi falls in love with a woman who has a black son and finds himself fighting with conflicting feelings.


Dome Karukoski


Aleksi Bardy
6 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Peter Franzén ... Teppo Salminen
Laura Birn ... Sari
Jasper Pääkkönen ... Harri
Yusufa Sidibeh Yusufa Sidibeh ... Rhamadhani
Jussi Vatanen ... Kulmala
Timo Lavikainen ... Olli
Pamela Tola ... Tölli
Mikko Neuvonen Mikko Neuvonen ... Daniel
Niko Vakkuri Niko Vakkuri ... Reko
Jani Toivola Jani Toivola ... Salif
Stan Saanila Stan Saanila ... Aleksi Rämö
Juha Pursiainen Juha Pursiainen ... Isä
Esa Muittari Esa Muittari ... Isä
Janne Ravi Janne Ravi ... Rikas isä
Jarno Jäppinen Jarno Jäppinen ... Isä


Neo-Nazi falls in love with a woman who has a black son and finds himself fighting with conflicting feelings.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


It's the Lion of Finland. See more »


Drama | Romance


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Parents Guide:

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Official Sites:

Official website


Finland | Sweden



Release Date:

18 October 2013 (Finland) See more »

Also Known As:

Heart of a Lion See more »

Filming Locations:

Kotka, Finland See more »


Box Office


€1,500,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Minä suojelen sinua kaikelta
Written by Kerkko Koskinen
Lyrics by Anni Sinnemäki
Performed by Laura Birn
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User Reviews

Best movie to come out of Finland in years
12 June 2014 | by VartiainenSee all my reviews

I had honestly given up hope of ever seeing a truly good Finnish film. Finnish filmmakers seemed to have this peculiar depressive streak a mile wide and every film I watched was either painfully banal comedy or a dark drama about the cruelty of life. And then I saw this film.

Leijonasydän by Dome Karukoski is the best Finnish film I've personally ever seen. It has the capacity of emotion, the sheer skill and the story to stand side by side with the best international films out there. And the reasons for this excellence are the reasons why most films succeed: excellent characters and a great story. And it's not that the story itself is all that unpredictable or new. The film is about a Neo-Nazi that is forced to live with his new girlfriend's son. A son, whose father just happens to be of African descent. You can probably figure out how the story will pan out just from that. It's the execution here, the way the story is told and how well the actors do their jobs, that pulls the movie through.

And those aforementioned actors are all very skilled. Peter Franzén and Jasper Pääkkönen both do a credible job of portraying two brothers, who both happen to believe in white power. Yet they're not treated unsympathetically. Their actions are condemned, sure, but the film also goes to great lengths to show them not as monster, but as people who believe in wrong things. They both show capability for regret, sympathy and even love, despite their upbringing. Great depth of emotion and humanity.

Laura Birn and Yusufa Sidibeh also shine as mother and son. Finland still doesn't get all that many immigrants, so people of foreign descent are still something of an oddity here. Thus it's great to see films like this one that treat the fact like it's supposed to be: a family, no matter their respective skin colour.

As far criticism goes, I only have a couple of nitpicks. Like how the ending could have gone on for a bit longer, or how Birn's character gets suddenly removed for a part of the film, but these are more matters of taste rather than real flaws in the film.

Leijonasydän is a great film. It believes in humanity, has incredible role performances and is just all around heartwarming to watch. Highly recommended for all.

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