13 September 2001 | screamer-13
bear with it and be rewarded
How come so few people have seen this film? It is good. Not brilliant, but definitely good, and if I had gone for an epic bathroom break about halfway through the film and returned in time for the end, I would have given it a 10. The theme of the film is the life of North African immigrants living in France, and its main protagonist is Jallel (Sami Bouajila), a young Tunisian man who has entered France as a stowaway and manages to blag his way to a temporary visa by telling customs he is a political refugee from Algeria. Jallel is a sympathetic and kind-hearted person, an all-round nice guy and a very good main character for the film. We follow him as he tries to find work and stay alive in a society which largely rejects him because he is an illegal immigrant with no papers. He manages to find friends and shelter amongst the immigrant community of Paris, and once he has a steady source of income, illegally selling fruit in the subway, he proceeds to embark on a rollercoaster ride of emotion with some of the women he meets in his little world. The first half of the film is upbeat and a joy to watch. Then there is a huge turning point about halfway through, after which the film becomes rather stale and boring. This is partly due to Elodie Bouchez's performance as a needy and stress-inducing young girl who is a few sandwiches short of a picnic. This is undoubtably an amazing, award-worthy performance, but this film really does not benefit from it. In an instant we are thrown from a relaxed, happy state, into a headachey pit of despair. This is when it's worthwhile taking the aforementioned bathroom break. However, things get much better in the last half-hour, when Bouchez's character becomes happier and more involved with those around her, and we get another joyful song and dance routine. The very end of the film is a bit sad, as we look back on Jallel's time in France and can't help feeling for him - he was such a nice guy, and deserved a better life, but the only mistakes he made were being kind, caring, and supportive of his friends. Despite the boring/painful spell in the third quarter, the film is very good and well worth watching. The French might be quite hard to keep up with if you are not fluent in the language, but that's what subtitles are for.