Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano
Starring Omar Sy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Tahar Rahim, Izïa Higelin, Isaka Sawadogo and Hélène Vincent
In UK Cinemas May 1st, 2015

by Joanna Orland

Considering that Samba features a handful of France’s top acting talent, it proves disappointing that what could have been a hard-hitting drama is merely a leisurely watch.  While mildly thought-provoking on modern day issues surrounding immigration, the film takes a more lighthearted approach to the subject matter, focusing on the shallow romantic and comedic elements as the sometimes forced narrative fails to do more than entertain in the moment.

Samba (Sy) is a Senegalese dishwasher who is facing deportation as he begins a relationship of sorts with his caseworker Alice (Gainsbourg).  Samba is desperate to stay in Paris, to work to provide money for his family back in Senegal.  No longer in possession of proper permits, in spite of spending ten years in Paris, daily life is a struggle and integration into society a near impossibility for him.

In pursuit of finding work under the radar, Samba befriends Walid, an Algerian playboy who pretends to be a Brazilian named Wilson in order to help his integration into French society.  In a rather strange casting choice, the typically serious actor Tahar Rahim plays Wilson with a comedic flare as if he were auditioning for a Will Ferrell film.  His character does provide the laughs, but some fall flat, as do some other elements of the film which seem to only exist to further the romantic story arc, rather than to build the reality of the world that Samba lives in.

Removing the comedy element of the dramedy that is Samba would have done the film a huge favour.  There is nothing wrong with a lighthearted look at a tough subject matter (see Obvious Child), but when it takes the place of genuinity, a film like Samba will struggle to find its place in modern society as much as its main character.

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