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.
Continue reading: Samba Review
Gary has been in and out of low-paid work for most of his young life despite being physically fit and able to adapt to most workplace situations. However, his adaptability could be about to be challenged as he signs up to work at a nuclear power plant in France. He is inducted into the plant by his colleagues Toni and Gilles, who become like family to him as the trio and their team battle for their health against the ever imminent threat of radiation poisoning. His new 'family' situation gets complicated when he falls in love with Toni's flirtatious fiancee Karole and he risks losing everything he's worked so hard for. Not only that, there's fear at work when he and some others suffer at the hands of radioactivity - and now his life could well be in danger.
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Marc Duval is struggling to support his family in France as he is faced with an increased financial pressure. However, he is offered a chance to better his life by moving to the Gibraltar off the Spanish coast and becoming a spy for French customs for a more than reasonable income. Unfortunately, the job is not without its risks as he must go undercover as a trustworthy confidante to formidable cocaine smuggler named Claudio Lanfredi. With this operation comes plenty of temptation into a lifestyle of unmatchable luxury, but when border patrol makes a move to arrest Lanfredi, Marc is forced to hide himself and his family from the wrath of Lanfredi's Columbian drug trafficking associates. It soon becomes clear that Marc has to decide what's worth dying for; his family or his job?
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Like his award-winning drama A Separation, this French drama from Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi is packed with complex characters who have detailed, full lives. And the connections between them are so layered with meaning that we can't help but see ourselves in each of them. As the title suggests, this is a story about the baggage we carry around with us, and Farhadi's approach is to confront it rather than hiding it away.
It all kicks off when Ahmad (Mosaffa) returns to Paris after four years back home in Tehran. His estranged French wife Marie-Anne (Bejo) wants him to sign the divorce papers so she can marry her new boyfriend Samir (Rahim), whose child she's carrying. But she also needs Ahmad's help with her 17-year-old daughter Lucie (Burlet), who has taken an irrational exception to Samir's presence. Ahmad has always had a better relationship with Lucie, but as he tries to help he gets dragged into a complicated web of secrets and misunderstandings.
The story is full of wrinkles. Samir is also married, but his wife is in a coma. And his expressive 5-year-old son (Aguis), as well as Marie-Anne's younger daughter (Jestin) also play into their relationship. As does Samir's eerily observant employee Naima (Ouazani). The way all of these people circle around each other sometimes feels a bit melodramatic, with pointed dialog, emotional over-reactions and a stream of revelations that change everything entirely. More interesting are the unfinished conversations and random outbursts that give real insight into the characters.
Continue reading: The Past [Le Passé] Review
Academy Award Nominated, Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) Directs and writes this critically acclaimed, character driven drama orientated around the emotional destruction and discovery caused by marriage and divorce.
Ahmad returns to Paris in order to finalize his divorce with his wife, only to discover she is getting re-married to an Arab, Samir. Since deserting his wife and two children four years ago, Ahmad notices his family relations have deteriorated and must work hard in order to restore his daughters and wife's relationship before a secret from the past is revealed.
Starring Academy Award Nominated and Cannes Best Actress 2013 B'r'nice Bejo (The Artist) as Marie, Ali Mosaffa as Ahmad, Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) as Samir and rising star Pauline Burlet (La Vie en Rose) as Lucie, The Past has caught festival and critical attention being official selected for: Toronto International Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival and American Film Institution with critics already calling it 'Astonishing' and 'Master Storytelling'.
Could 'The Past' be even better than the Oscar winning 'A Separation'?
Iranian Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi, who made his name in the industry with the incredible A Seperation, is potentially sitting on the Palme d'Or after his Paris-set tale 'The Past' drew boisterous applause and strong reviews following its screening at the Cannes Film Festival this week. The film boasts The Artist's Berenice Bejo in the lead role as a Parisian mother living in the multicultural suburbs who asks her estranged husband to return from Tehran to finalise their divorce.
In the meantime, Marie invites her new boyfriend - played by Tahar Rahim of the superb A Prophet - to move in with her and her two daughters from another past relationship. Unsurprisingly, her husband returns from Tehran and his arrival upsets the balance of the house. The discussion amongst critics on Twitter appears to suggest that 'The Past' will undoubtedly be amongst the favourites when the awards are handing out by jury president Steven Spielberg on May 26. Bejo was singled out for particular praise for her stunning performance and the actress concedes that he had plenty of offers from Hollywood after The Artist won big at Oscars, choosing instead to work with the one of "the world's best directors" in Farhadi.
Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian wrote of the new movie, "It is an intricate and often brilliant drama, with restrained and intelligent performances; there is an elegantly patterned mosaic of detail, unexpected plot turns, suspenseful twists and revelations." Deborah Young of the Hollywood Reporter was equally enamoured with the movie, writing, "Farhadi's nearly flawless screenplay foregoes the explosive shocks that electrified Fireworks Wednesday and About Elly and drove A Separation on to win the Best Foreign Language Oscar. The Past plays like a low-key adagio in the hands of a masterful pianist, who knows how to give every note it's just nuance and how every single phrase affects all the rest."
One of the most unsettling movies of the year, this sharply made drama shifts inexorably from blissful romance to something darkly horrific. It's so understated that it might alienate audiences who want everything carefully explained to them. But the problem is that we understand far too well why the story goes where it goes, and that makes it even more haunting.
Based on a true story, the film opens with a brief glimpse of a terrible family tragedy before flashing back to happier times. Now living in Belgium, Moroccan-born Mounir (Rahim) has a whirlwind romance with Murielle (Dequenne). After they get married, they move in with Mounir's friend Andre (Arestrup), a doctor who married Mounir's sister (Raoui) so she could get a European visa. As Mounir and Murielle have four children in quick succession, she struggles with their domestic situation, longing for a family home of their own. She even offers to move to Morocco to live near Mounir's mother (Belal). But Andre seems to have some strange hold over Mounir.
As the years pass, Murielle's quiet desperation grows inexorably, although the film's audience seem to be the only ones who notice. Dequenne's performance is a masterful depiction of submerged emotion as she struggles to quietly cope with Andre's passive-aggression and Mounir's cultural machismo. So as the tension rises, we react like her, clinging to happier moments and possibilities rather than face up to the raw facts. This wouldn't work as well as it does without the superior work from Rahim and Arestrup, who previously starred together memorably in A Prophet. They cleverly refuse to let their characters drift into any sort of stereotype.
Continue reading: Our Children [A Perdre La Raison] Review
That said, the actors are all terrific, most notably the magnetic Rahim, through whose eyes we watch the events unfold. He beautifully plays Younes' quiet discovery of each layer of truth, from his initial carefree lawlessness to agreeing to help the authorities and ultimately to risking his life to save people he perhaps should be shunning. But the film beautifully points out that Islam isn't about hating the Jews: it's about respecting human life.And there's a lot more going on in the story. Strong subplots involving both Leila and Salim are only barely touched upon and could actually be expanded into much more engaging movies than this one. And this is a refreshingly restrained depiction of the Nazis. Sure, they're tenacious and inhuman, but they're also never vilified into cartoon villains, which subtly makes them even more chilling. And even if it lacks any real kick, the film is an important account of normal, flawed people doing what they can in terrible circumstances.
Continue reading: Free Men Review
To bring peace between the two leading kingdoms in 1920s Arabia, Sultan Amar (Strong) allows Emir Nesib (Banderas) to raise his two sons. Younger son Auda (Rahim) grows up as a bookworm with a soft spot for Nesib's daughter Leyla (Pinto), which comes in handy when they are asked to marry to link the two kingdoms. But their fragile treaty is strained when Texans arrive and start to to drill for oil: Nesib rather likes the money, but Amar sees this as a violation of their treaty.
Continue reading: Black Gold Review
Marcus Aquila has always believed his father - the commander of the Ninth legion - was a great warrior yet he's never truly been at peace with his disappearance, 20 years might have passed but the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Marcus' father and his troop have left many questions unanswered. Wishing to reinstate his father's reputation in the legion, Marcus embarks on a mission to find out what really happened.
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Some very big themes are given space to breathe in this remarkably naturalistic drama, which...
Marc Duval is struggling to support his family in France as he is faced with...
Like his award-winning drama A Separation, this French drama from Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi is...
Academy Award Nominated, Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) Directs and writes this critically acclaimed, character driven...
One of the most unsettling movies of the year, this sharply made drama shifts inexorably...
In German-occupied Paris, Younes (Rahim) is a young Algerian who sells black-market goods to North...
The history of the oil industry in Arabia is reduced to a fast-paced adventure movie...