Le Fil tells the story of young architect Malik (Antonin Stahly-Vishwanadan) and his turbulent return to the overbearing paternal embrace of his mother Sara (Claudia Cardinale) in Tunisia. As though our protagonist's life was not complicated enough, he is also struggling against a doting mother’s yearning for grandchildren, something that his sexual preferences will not easily lend themselves to. While being drawn to the resident eye-candy in the shape of his mother’s handyman Bilal (Salim Kechiouche), Malik struggles with latent childhood anxiety and the shackles of his filial bond.

The film's relatively untapped subtext of social issues ranging from household servitude, to the interaction between Tunisians and assimilated French Moors piques interest, as does the presence of Cardinale, who gave such an iconic turn in Sergio Leone’s unequalled Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).

Copy picture

The central storyline, however, proves less interesting, focussing solely on Malik’s struggle for sexual emancipation, as he attempts to disentangle himself from the titular string that binds him to his domineering mother. As a narrative mechanism, the figurative string seems out-of-place and offers nothing to the story. There is brief reference to Malik having extensive therapy as a child, to cope with adolescent anxiety, and, though the string is not literal, it appears to represent his lingering distress. The appearance of the string, however, proves inexplicable to the point of absurdity, with Cardinale, at one point, going so far as to tell her son to change his shirt because it’s unravelled.

The central story offers nothing new or unique and the manner in which it is told by the director, newcomer Mehdi Ben Attia, leaves a lingering sense of a TV movie punching above its weight. Malik is a mixture of brooding anxiety and obvious tension, as he mounts his scooter and darts into town for dangerous liaisons with anonymous local men in shady cellars, before returning to his familial nest to gaze wantonly at Kechiouche’s burly handyman.

The film's principle downfall is that it deals with the crucial subject matter in an entirely unoriginal and, at times, unnecessarily lurid fashion. Haim Tabakman’s brilliant Eyes Wide Open (2009) showed that the conflict of sexuality amid a predominantly parochial society can, when handled tentatively, prove genre-defining. The problem here is that sympathy for Malik is in short supply and Cardinale’s stardust is perhaps the only thing that elevates Le Fil above the status of the humdrum late-night TV movie.

Reviewed on: 04 Nov 2010
Share this with others on...
The String packshot
A closeted gay man finds himself under pressure from his over-bearing mother, who wants him to get married.
Amazon link

Director: Mehdi Ben Attia

Writer: Mehdi Ben Attia, Olivier Laneurie

Starring: Claudia Cardinale, Antonin Stahly-Vishwanadan, Salim Kechiouche, Driss Ramdi, Ramla Ayari, Abir Bennani, Rihab Mejri, Lotfi Dziri, Hosni Khaled

Year: 2009

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France


Search database: