ANNES, France (Reuters) Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki tackles the tough theme of illegal immigration in his touching fairy tale Le Havre, launching on Tuesday in Cannes where enthusiasm for the competition films is hotting up. After a sluggish start dominated by somber tales, critics and journalists filing into the Grand Theatre Lumiere cinema for early morning screenings have a spring in their step again as 2011 begins to live up to expectations of a strong year. Kaurismakis movie about an old man who sets out to rescue a young African boy from the French authorities in the northern port city of Le Havre was loudly applauded at the end of a packed press screening. The director said his vision of the world was far darker than the one portrayed in Le Havre, which is full of humour, tenderness and painterly beauty. I was about 10 years old when I found myself disappointed (with life) so I decided to fake that I am not and I started to create hope for others because they still have some, he said. The more skeptical and cynical I get the softer are my feelings. I cant help it. I start to be tender in my old days and I start to even like my characters, he added in English at a press conference, where he was in a sardonic mood. In Le Havre, Andre Wilms plays Marcel Marx, a former author who scrapes a living as a shoe shiner and is part of a close-knit local community in a run-down part of town sharing a modest home with his wife Arletty. His life is thrown upside-down when Arletty falls seriously ill and a young refugee turns up on his doorstep, setting in motion an increasingly desperate bid to help him cross the Channel to England and reunite with his mother in London.