Samba

"Excellent"

Samba Review


Some very big themes are given space to breathe in this remarkably naturalistic drama, which is livened up by terrific central performances from Omar Sy and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Instead of heavy-handed commentary on workplace burnout and immigration, the film is packed with sharp humour, engaging characters and situations that are never quite what they seem to be. At two hours, it feels a bit overlong, but the relationships are so involving that we don't mind too much.

Sy plays the title character Samba, an immigrant from Senegal to France who has just been promoted to a job as a restaurant chef. But his resident visa is suddenly in jeopardy, so he consults charity lawyer Manu (Izia Higelin), who can't find much reason to be hopeful. Manu's assistant is Alice (Gainsbourg), a volunteer taking time off after a breakdown, and she has a strong spark of attraction with the charismatic Samba, even though she knows she shouldn't get personally involved. When Samba is ordered to leave France, he goes into hiding with his Uncle Lamouna (Youngar Fall), using his uncle's legal identity to get construction work alongside the fast-talking Brazilian Wilson (Tahar Rahim). And Samba also secretly keeps in touch with Alice.

Essentially a romance, the love story blossoms slowly and realistically. Samba and Alice may have been immediately attracted to each other, but everything is working against them, and navigating the social structures is tricky. In one clever scene, both the legal workers and the migrants attend a party together, trying to overcome the official barriers between them. But Samba is such a charmer that Alice can't resist him. Indeed, Sy lights up the screen with his expressive face, even upstaging the charismatic, cheeky Rahim, who gives one of his most physically kinetic performances. As always, Gainsbourg is quietly superb as the thoughtful Alice, a woman who knows she needs to get her own life back but is afraid to take the plunge.

Filmmakers Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano never force any of the themes, even as they fill scenes with obvious symbolism (Samba's lucky football T-shirt makes several appearances). And there's one climactic plot point that makes everything a bit too easy. But the story is strong enough to work without these gimmicks, especially with such open-handed, loose performances from these gifted actors who are playing sympathetic people struggling to do the best they can in a messy situation. And by using them to explore a big issue like immigration, the film puts a remarkably human face on a political hot potato.



Samba

Facts and Figures

Genre: Foreign

Run time: 118 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 15th October 2014

Production compaines: Ten Films, Gaumont, Quad Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano

Producer: Nicolas Duval-Adassovsky, Laurent Zeitoun, Yann Zenou

Starring: as Samba, as Wilson, as Alice, Izia Higelin as Manu, Hélène Vincent as Marcelle, as Madeleine

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