From the team that brought us the hilariously beautiful film The Intouchables, comes another French comedy drama in the same vein. Samba follows the story of Senegalese migrant Samba (Omar Sy), who has been living illegally in France for ten years, working as a dish hand and sending money back home to his family in Senegal. Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is a rookie immigration worker who has recently taken leave from her high-up executive job after having a nervous breakdown. When Samba is caught and arrested, the pair meet and form an immediate bond, and Alice sets out to help Samba stay in France and fly under the radar. But with a court order forcing Samba to leave French soil immediately, staying hidden becomes harder than ever before.
Directing duo Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano were the brains behind The Intouchables, and they have done a brilliant job emulating the same humour and heart in Samba. Sometimes funny, sometimes emotional, and always moving, this lovely French film captures you from the get go, and ensures that you won’t be able to wipe the dumb grin off your face. This, I believe, is mostly thanks to Omar Sy’s infectious on-screen presence, and his ability to make you laugh when he laughs, and cry when he cries. His performance as Samba is simply magnetic, supported by similarly eye-catching cast of talented actors that also features Tahar Rahim and Izia Higelin as Samba and Alice’s respective comedic sidekicks.
But what really draws you into the world of Samba is the original subject matter, one that you don’t often find in your typical romantic comedy. The film delves deep into the kind of lifestyle led by illegal migrants and really makes you feel for those people who are made to break the law every single day. It’s a topic that is rarely explored in a modern context, and I appreciate the grace with which it is examined in this film, and the voice it gives those migrants who are really just good people, but are being constantly perceived as outsiders and criminals.
With a 2-hour run time, the film did start to drag a little towards the end, and the conclusion felt a little too rushed and confused, particularly considering how long the movie was and how much time they had to get it right. I also questioned some of the actions of the main characters in a way that detracts a little from the believability of what’s playing out in front of you, and there were just one or two too many cliches thrown into the mix. However, overall this is a really lovely little film that will warm the heart and put fuzzies in your belly.
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