Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
France, 2015. Why Not Productions, Page 114, France 2 Cinema, Canal+, Cine+, France Televisions, Region Ile-de-France, Cinémage 9, A Plus Image 5, Palatine Étoile 12, Indéfilms 3, La Banque Postale Image 8, Cofinova 11, SofiTVciné 2, Soficinéma 11. Screenplay and Dialogue by Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain, Noe Debre. Cinematography by Eponine Momenceau. Produced by Pascal Caucheteux. Music by Nicolas Jaar. Production Design by Michel Barthelemy. Costume Design by Chattoune. Film Editing by Juliette Welfling.
A makeshift family is put together when a man looking to escape the Civil War in Sri Lanka needs a wife and child to escape, having in his possession the passports of a deceased family of three that he can use to get out of the country and to relative safety to Europe. He finds the woman and she finds an orphaned girl and, after a few formalities with the French government (which seems suspiciously accommodating) find themselves slightly better off in a suburban Paris ghetto. He is the caretaker of a building complex overrun with drug dealers, while she becomes housemaid to an elderly relative to one of these dubious characters. They survive the pains of early adjustment while dealing with the perverse situation at home, the fact that they live as a family despite really not being one. His experiences, seeing his family killed and forced to fight for the LTTE, means there’s a violent stain on him that he cannot easily leave in the past, while she has no maternal feeling for this little girl who finds herself alone in the world and in need of protection. Jacques Audiard has assembled another expertly shot and performed collection of scenes that at first appears to leave behind his usual obsession with thugs and gangsters and move into a realm of concern for world politics. Then the characters end up in the middle of drug dealing warfare and we realize he is situated right where we’re used to him being, and as much as he wants to make a delicate exploration of humans surviving trauma, he can’t help but be mystified by the romance of career criminals who he films like they were the anti-heroes in a Melville classic. What’s most shocking, though, is how safe and conventional the whole film is, a decided rejection of dramatic conflict setting in early that reassures us that nothing truly bad is going to happen to these people and, as a result of this, there’s not much emotional involvement demanded. That said, the performers are all exceptional and the film is engaging even if it is not particularly challenging.
The Criterion Collection: #871
Cannes Film Festival Award: Palme D’Or
Toronto International Film Festival: 2015