French Film Festival: Le Havre: Screening Review – Simply Charming!

“Miracles do happen.”

“Not in my neighborhood.”

Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms) is an old shoe-shiner who lives with his beloved wife Arletty (Kati Outinen) and pet retriever Laika. They are barely making ends meet. Times are tough, but again, when weren’t they? Every day is the same old down-ward spiral, with little to no excitement. Idrissa (Blondin Miguel), an African boy who just wants to meet his mother in England, is caught by a dock-worker. He manages to slip through the cracks (almost literally) and hides near the quay, where he meets Marcel.

Director Aki Kaurismaki throws our Marcel, from the idyllic township of Le Havre, Normandy, into an unexpected (even bizarre) adventure. Immigration is a serious topic, especially in France but Kaurismaki’s gentle touch eases the audience and fills them with hope. He juxtaposes serious events with funny dialogues in a clever manner. Which has us on our toes and laughing our heads off at the same time.

The camerawork is solid and doesn’t snap for one second. It maintains a light mood and casual pace throughout. The acting is convincing, you will soon be rooting not only for Marcel and Idrissa, but also for the supporting characters, who have been played beautifully. The background score, mostly an Accordion, gives the film an intoxicating flavor, much like a little glass of Calvados. Humorous and complete with Kafka references, the film closes on one clear message; kindness can cure all sickness! Le Havre has set the bar for all other film that will be screened for this festival.

Why should you watch this film?

Watch it for it’s dark humor and simple story-telling. This piece of french cinema discusses a weighty topic in an uncomplicated manner. Unconventional but not unconvincing, missing it is a sin!

– By Gargi Kowli