Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
Original title: L’Armee du Salut
France/Morocco/Switzerland, 2013. Les Films de Pierre, Les Films Pelléas, Rita Productions, Ali n’ Films, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Radio Télévision Suisse, SRG SSR idée suisse, Cofinova 8. Screenplay by Abdellah Taia. Cinematography by Agnes Godard. Produced by Hugues Charbonneau, Hicham Kadiri, Marie-Ange Luciani. Film Editing by Francoise Tourmen. Toronto International Film Festival 2013.
A moody and well performed but impenetrable film by Abdellah Taia. The protagonist, also named Abdellah, is a young man growing up in a cramped home with his stormily married parents and multiple siblings. His burgeoning awareness of his sexuality expresses itself through an obsession with his older brother that this intelligent film never lets get creepy or exploitative. After some notable experiences of his adolescence, we flash forward to ten years later and see what kind of man Abdellah has become, fashioned as he has been by Morocco’s behind-closed-doors attitude to gay men and the Europeans who exploit them. The trouble is that Taia, referencing what is likely his own past, draws far too few connections between his random scenes to establish any emotional poignancy, and never actually gives us much of an impression of where his protagonist goes in his journey towards his true self. Thankfully, the character at the centre of it, portrayed by two very skilled actors, is sympathetic enough to keep you interested, but the payoff is nowhere to be seen.