When Touko Valio Laaksonen — known by his artist’s name, Tom of Finland — began drawing erotic images of men in 1940s Europe, such an act was an illegal. Yet for decades, Laaksonen labored for his art, surviving shady dealers on the black market as well as threats from law enforcement, which considered not only his art but his very being as a gay man a threat to society.
Directed by Dome Karukoski, the sweeping biopic Tom of Finland shows Laaksonen’s (Pekka Strang) journey as well as the evolving acceptance of gay people throughout the latter half of the 20th century. From World War II to the AIDS crisis, Tom subverts each era’s agents of oppression through his art’s embrace of sexuality without shame. The film offers a must-see history lesson in Resistance, which takes on renewed importance in today’s world.