A quirky couple simultaneously lose their jobs where they worked as respectively a head waiter and a bus driver. Each nearing 40 years of age, they face a tall order to return to the workforce.

Kaurismaki makes dour battlers funny.

What is it about films set around restaurants that makes them so wonderful? Aki Kaurismaki's Drifting Clouds is his most optimistic, his sweetest film yet; but that typical Finnish gloom has its place in his story.

Set in the recession in Finland, it charts the downward economic spiral of married couple Ilona (Kati Utinen) and Lauri (Kari Vaananen). He loses his job as a tram driver because of cutbacks – he literally draws a short straw – and soon after, the restaurant where Ilona works as the head waiter is taken over by a chain; from there things just go downhill really, but it's not the narrative that's so important with Drifting Clouds, it's the telling. In minimalist style, in primary colours seen on an overcast day, Kaurismaki makes us love and laugh at these two dour battlers.

Kaurismaki almost bends over backwards not to be sentimental about his characters. They're stoic, they don't ask for sympathy. Using static shots with characters moving out of frame – to great comic effect on occasions – and no close-ups, this is almost pristine filmmaking. The one sentimental touch from Kaurismaki is in the scene where Ilona leans against a bookcase where there's a photograph of a child – we presume it's their child who's died. The photograph is actually that of Matti Pellonpaa, a Kaurismaki veteran who died in 1995 just before Drifting Clouds was made.

This is a film that I fell totally in love with when I saw it, it is so human, so touching and so clever.