Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"The film has all the bullet points for audience approval and yet somehow falls short"

Don't call this a rom-com. It's a rom-con(troversial). The underlying theme could hardly be more topical. Illegal immigrants! The right wing's favourite boogie men. How do they stay under the radar? How do they survive? What kind of life is that?

What kind of film is this?

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Not what you expect. The politics allows bureaucracy to smother the personal in favour of rules and regulations. Paperwork is the enemy of hope as well as a hider's charter.

And so it's about emotions, feelings, the justice of the heart. Samba (Omar Sy) is a big man, hard to hide or disguise, who works in the kitchen of a Parisian restaurant and sends money home to Senegal. He has been in France for 10 years. He wants to stay permanently and legitimately, which is how he meets Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg).

She is what used to be known as "a burnt out case," a casualty of self-confidence and mid-life depression. Despite this, she is starting a job in social services, or whatever department deals with immigration, and is warned by her superior never to get involved with a client.

Naturally, this being a movie, based on a novel, she does. And the man without a plan is Samba. She wants to help him and yet he knows that one false move and he'll be on the next plane to Hades Central in shackles.

He is befriended by Walid (Tahar Rahim), another illegal who pretends to be Brazilian because it improves his chances with the girls. Walid is smart in the ways of avoidance and the tactics of the customs police. Also, he's the comic relief, an essential counterpoint to the seriousness of rom-cons.

The film has all the bullet points for audience approval and yet somehow falls short. The romance is repressed and the politics never advances beyond a minor form of local corruption.

Reviewed on: 01 May 2015
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Samba migrated to France ten years ago from Senegal, and has since been plugging away at various lowly jobs...
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Anne-Katrin Titze ****

Director: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano

Writer: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano, based on the novel by Delphine Coulin

Starring: Omar Sy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Tahar Rahim, Izïa Higelin, Isaka Sawadogo, Hélène Vincent, Youngar Fall, Christiane Millet, Jacqueline Jehanneuf, Liya Kebede, Sabine Pakora, Clotilde Mollet, Boubacar Ndiaye, Oumar Makalou, Roukiata Ouedraogo

Year: 2014

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France


SSFF 2014

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