SAMBA (France, 2015)


samba Greetings again from the darkness. Co-directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano delivered one of the best movies of 2012 with The Intouchables, and reunite to adapt a novel from Delphine Coulin. It’s another “odd couple” story, this time focusing on Samba (Omar Sy) and Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg). The familiar blend of drama and comedy is present, and the French immigration process takes a few shots.

Omar Sy exploded on the scene in The Intouchables and again proves what a tremendous screen presence he has. However this time his turn is mostly dramatic, while the bulk of the comedy arrives courtesy of his friend Wilson (played by Tahar Rahim from A Prophet). Ten years ago, Samba immigrated to France from Senegal, and has been sending money home ever since. A police incident leaves Samba in danger of being deported, and he receives help from Alice, an inexperienced immigration worker who is dealing with her own issues … she’s a hard core corporate burn out (hide your cell phone fellas!).

Given the subject matter, the film is much funnier and pleasant to watch than one might expect. The actors listed above, along with Izia Higelin as another immigration worker, are all wonderful and interesting to watch as their characters struggle through the hand they’ve been dealt. Samba and Wilson steal moments of joy while living in constant fear of being discovered, while Alice is borderline depressive and insomniac. She and Samba spend much of the movie in clumsy flirtations while their stressful situations swirl around. It’s awkward to watch, but we do find ourselves hoping things work out for each of them.

A very promising opening sequence contrasts the attendees of a high-dollar wedding with the working class of those in the kitchen- of which Samba is one. Unfortunately, this contrast is mostly hinted at for the rest of the film, except for one terrific “back and forth/ him and her” segment. The best guess is that there is an outstanding dramatic story hidden by the overuse of comedy. While the laughs are legitimate and appreciated, the film leaves us feeling a bit empty, given the lack of information and insight we take away in regards to French immigration.

watch the trailer:

 

 

 

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