Samba Film Review

Film Review by Jarred Tito

The Premise
Samba migrated to France 10 years ago from Senegal, and has since been plugging away at various lowly jobs. Alice is a senior executive who has recently undergone a burnout. Both struggle to get out of their dead-end lives Samba’s willing to do whatever it takes to get working papers, while Alice tries to get her life back on track until fate draws them together.

The Review
After experiencing the movie sensation The Intouchables, the first movie directed by these two very gifted French film makers, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, I was feeling quite optimistic as I found my way to my seat in the theatre. This dynamic directing duo have once again joined forces with leading French actor Omar Sy, who also starred in their first movie to create, for perhaps the second time, another box office sensation that will send the critics galloping for their laptops and smart phones in hope to be the first to drop the news about the success of their follow up movie. I suspect, after seeing this film, the galloping may be reduced to a canter or even a trot then perhaps to a stop off at the local cafĂ© for a coffee and a French crepe to ponder over a film that showed so much potential. Was it me alone or did others in the theatre feel a little short changed with the over worked yet, at the same time, over-simplified story line? Was this truly the story telling of two of France’s most promising film directors or were my expectations set too high after seeing their first movie? Sure this picture was shot in Paris and made by the French but somehow didn’t seem to capture that certain…what is it…’Frenchness’ that makes a French movie French. This is quite often the case when a film maker has the task of following up a hugely successful movie and in this case, Frances most financially successful film of all time or so I’m told.

However, as a whole I quite enjoyed the performances from the cast through-out. And in spite of my expectations being shaken by the abrupt cutting from predictable scene to predictable scene, the acting personalities allowed me to look beyond the scaffolding and enjoy the journey. The very gifted and talented Omar Sy, who plays Samba, is a natural in this role and brought the much needed plausibility and energy this film desperately needed. Samba is from Senegal, and works as a dish washer in a hotel but things go bad for him when a bureaucratic slip-up occurs and he ends up in a detention centre and is ordered to leave France. Here he meets Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg) an immigration officer who eventually fights for him to stay in France and then fights with herself as she struggles with the notion of entertaining his love. We are taken through some of the disturbing realities of ‘life as an immigrant’ as we follow Samba as he seeks firstly a job and secondly a friend’s lost love which goes bad, real bad. Unfortunately for Samba he finds himself stuck in the middle of a very awkward and dangerous love triangle which threatens to completely destroy any future hope of making a life for himself in France. There are a few laughs along the way but really too few to mention and certainly not enough to warrant the genre description of Comedy/drama. Most, if not all of the laughs in the film, come from the pairing up of Samba and Wilson, a fellow illegal immigrant from Brazil as they battle their way through the masses in search of work.

The Verdict
For me I thought the strengths of this movie were weighed down heavily by some of its basic flaws including poorly woven love stories and sub-standard poverty struggles, which surprised me given the experience of the film makers. Having said that, Samba is not a bad film at all and I wouldn’t want to leave you with that impression. After all, The Intouchables was such a well-made film which casts a huge shadow that would make it very hard for anyone’s second movie to climb out from underneath of let alone match it. Samba is worth a look at but don’t set your sights too high. The characters are enjoyable as is the insight into what goes on in some of Europe’s more illustrious cities. Perhaps it is French after all?

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 9th April 2015
Rating: M – Contains offensive language
Duration: 118 minutes 
Genre:  Comedy
Starring: Omar Sy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Tahir Rahim, Izia Higelin
Director: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano (The Intouchables)