Le Havre is gentle movie, quiet in tone and narrow in focus. Even its grand political statement is uninterested in stepping on anyone's toes, preferring to hang to the back while a vivid but equally unassuming portrait of a man succumbing to his own principles has its moment. It's also a film populated by good people (even the bad guy, it turns out), depicting a world where good things actually come to them. There are funny moments in Le Havre, but the film is more cosmically lighthearted than comically so.
It all might seem slight at first, and in many ways it is. Having not seen any of Kaurismäki's other films (the director has two separate boxsets in Criterion's companion Eclipse series, joining only the rarefied company of Ozu and Kurosawa), I was not expecting to find such a light work. Still, it's extremely mature and beautifully rendered. Some viewers will certainly find the film's pace leisurely, but Le Havre is a nice reminder that good work - even about meaningful things - doesn't need to feel grand or ambitious. It doesn't need to be invasive or aggressive in its attempts to move you. Le Havre might not be the best Criterion (or even its IFC collab) has to offer, but it's a nice reminder of this, and a good way to spend 90 minutes thinking about what it means to be a person.