Reviewed by: Evelin Toth

Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu in Félicité
"The film’s most gripping aspect is the delicacy with which it handles its extraordinary emotional depth"

Set in Kinshasa, the socially divided capital of Democratic Republic of Congo, director Alan Gomis tells a compassionate, socio-realistic tale of a mother struggling to cater for her son. After a motorbike accident critically injures him and leaves him in dire need of an operation, she embarks on a journey to not only gather the money needed, but confront her past wrongs and demons. The film blends the gritty realism of a life so deprived of necessities with emotional sincerity and mesmerising allegorical imagery.

Felicite establishes its setting with a recurring location, the bar its main character sings at to make ends meet. The imagery this opening scene provides is so radiant: the way the people in this part of Kinshasa socialise, the loose social conventions, and the character dynamics between regulars, barkeeps, employees and town drunks. And most importantly, the soul-binding music and the singing that brings it all together. The figure of Felicite stands in the middle of this, withdrawn and introspective, her personality in stark contrast to the enchanting performance she puts on that ignites the night.

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The film’s most gripping aspect is the delicacy with which it handles its extraordinary emotional depth. In a world filled with loud, hyperverbal, action-packed movie giants that don’t let the attention rest, it’s refreshing to see a piece of cinema so quiet and minimalistic. As the obstacles pile up and hope fades from Felicite’s life, her expression transforms from a quiet, suppressed and mostly internalised turmoil to something more visceral and aggressive. Her journey is a series of desperate attempts to protect her child, ones that force her to confront her past wrongs and come to terms with the reasons behind her failures and loneliness. The emotional journey within this tale is fantastically articulated by Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu’s soulful performance, expressing the majority of Felicite’s inner crisis without words.

While the emotions do most of the work in the film, it’s hard to overlook the plotting interwoven with it. After her son’s motorbike accident, Felicite embarks on a journey to raise the sum needed to save him from amputation. Her struggle is not only with time; in order to get help, she has to confront figures from her past. Despite the undeniable importance of this journey, the plotting of the film often feels drawn out, missing a clear resolution or conclusion. While this could be attributed to the realistic style, as an intentional facet, the confusing pacing is nevertheless a source of frustration for the viewer.

An endlessly emotional journey, Felicite is an introspective film, one that deals with raw, visceral emotions and portrays its shocking, gripping tale in a realistic light. Enriched by the enchanting performances, it conveys the inner turmoil of a desperate mother who has to come to terms with her past before she can proceed with serenity.

Reviewed on: 22 Dec 2017
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Félicité packshot
Story of a singer who finds herself in desperate circumstances after her son has an accident.

Director: Alain Gomis

Writer: Alain Gomis, Olivier Loustau, Delphine Zingg

Starring: Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu, Gaetan Claudia, Papi Mpaka, Nadine Ndebo, Elbas Manuana, Diplome Amekindra, Célestin Mokono, François Kasonga, Prince Mbasi, Ferdinand Minga, Aziza Kengumbe, José Lusala, Plaisir Mumbula, Nathan Mulumba, Claudine Lumbu

Year: 2016

Runtime: 129 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: France, Belgium

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