Magazine article Screen International

Samba

Magazine article Screen International

Samba

Article excerpt

Dirs/scr: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano. France. 2014. 115mins

There are a lot of smiles and good-natured fun and compassion in Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano's Samba, their follow-up to the 2011 box office and critical success Intouchables (which took some $425 million internationally), but somehow the magic never quite completely hits the sweet spot this time round as they deliver a well-meaning and occasionally joyous film that is ultimately too scattershot in its format and tone to really work.

The film looks great and is punctuated with some delightful moments but audiences expecting a similar experience to Intouchables may be slightly disappointed.

With the charismatic Omar Sy once again their star, this time appearing alongside Charlotte Gainsbourg, the story of a charming illegal alien worker trying every which way he can to stay in France and falling for his neurotic case worker has some nice ingredients but they try and pack just too much into the rather freewheeling structure when they should have just focused on the central relationship. But there is still a lot to enjoy in Samba - especially from some of the support casting - and Gaumont (which also sold internationally) should see a healthy response when the film opens in France in mid-October.

Samba (Sy) has lived in France for year and works in the kitchen of a classy Paris hotel - there is a lovely opening scene that sees the camera track from a glossy period-looking party into the kitchen where he is washing dishes - but after being offered a better position he makes the mistake of talking to immigration officials and suddenly finds himself in a detention centre at Charles de Gaule airport and under threat of being deported.

There he meets Alice (Gainsbourg) who, after suffering from a nervous breakdown, is trying to get her life together by volunteering to help in a free immigration services scheme, and is being trained by matter-of-fact co-counselor Manu (Izia Higelin). Alice takes a shine to Samba right from the start, and makes the rookie error - according to Manu - of giving him her personal telephone number. The awful trials and tribulations of those seeking asylum and/or stuck in detention centres is nicely portrayed, while as a contrast those well-meaning types trying to help are largely portrayed as middle-class white-women. …

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