Some very big themes are given space to breathe in this remarkably naturalistic drama, which is livened up by terrific central performances from Omar Sy and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Instead of heavy-handed commentary on workplace burnout and immigration, the film is packed with sharp humour, engaging characters and situations that are never quite what they seem to be. At two hours, it feels a bit overlong, but the relationships are so involving that we don't mind too much.
Sy plays the title character Samba, an immigrant from Senegal to France who has just been promoted to a job as a restaurant chef. But his resident visa is suddenly in jeopardy, so he consults charity lawyer Manu (Izia Higelin), who can't find much reason to be hopeful. Manu's assistant is Alice (Gainsbourg), a volunteer taking time off after a breakdown, and she has a strong spark of attraction with the charismatic Samba, even though she knows she shouldn't get personally involved. When Samba is ordered to leave France, he goes into hiding with his Uncle Lamouna (Youngar Fall), using his uncle's legal identity to get construction work alongside the fast-talking Brazilian Wilson (Tahar Rahim). And Samba also secretly keeps in touch with Alice.
Essentially a romance, the love story blossoms slowly and realistically. Samba and Alice may have been immediately attracted to each other, but everything is working against them, and navigating the social structures is tricky. In one clever scene, both the legal workers and the migrants attend a party together, trying to overcome the official barriers between them. But Samba is such a charmer that Alice can't resist him. Indeed, Sy lights up the screen with his expressive face, even upstaging the charismatic, cheeky Rahim, who gives one of his most physically kinetic performances. As always, Gainsbourg is quietly superb as the thoughtful Alice, a woman who knows she needs to get her own life back but is afraid to take the plunge.
Continue reading: Samba Review
Castella (Jean-Pierre Bacri) and his wife have to attend a local stage production of Bérénice, in which their daughter plays a small part. They don't care for the theatre and can't understand the verse, but, to Castella's own surprise, he finds himself unusually moved by a leading actress Clara. The charming point here is that Clara isn't a young aspiring theatrical diva but an aging, harried, and often unemployed actress from a small provincial theatre. Castella, however, doesn't see her that way: For him, she brings into his dispassionate routine the whiff of a free-spirited life including cozy, drunken late-night talks and vibrant gallery gatherings. Through happenstance, Castella's new business arrangement requires him to learn English, and Clara (Anne Alvaro) becomes his teacher.
Continue reading: The Taste Of Others Review
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