With immigration in the news, the Vernon Film Society begins its fall season with the film Samba, the story of a recent migrant to France (Omar Sy) as he fights to stay in his adopted country with the help of a rookie immigration worker (Charlotte Gainsbourg).
Three years ago, The Intouchables became one of France’s biggest breakout hits, charming audiences across Europe and then the world. Much of its charm flowed from its co-star, the exuberant Sy.
Samba Cissé (Sy) is a migrant to France from Mali. Washing dishes in the back kitchen of a fancy hotel is hardly his European dream, but it gets worse when a bureaucratic slip-up lands him in detention. There he meets Alice (Gainsbourg), an immigration worker new to the job and unused to the hard realities of life on France’s bottom rung.
When Samba is released but slapped with an order to leave France, Alice begins to let her professional role bleed into her personal life.
Directors Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache craft a nuanced story here, inflecting the drama of Samba’s predicament with humour that emerges naturally from his growing friendship with Alice, and with a fellow migrant played by the always-engaging Tahar Rahim (A Prophet). There’s even a graceful turn to romance, as Samba and Alice find themselves drawn together by both their similarities and their notable differences.
Gainsbourg and Rahim, also known for his edgy roles, seem touched by the spark of humane comedy at the heart of Sy’s charm. In Samba, Sy finds a role to show the depth and range of his abilities, and heat to match the light of his grin.
Samba screens Monday at the Vernon Towne Cinema at the regular times of 5:15 and 7:45 p.m. Tickets are available one week ahead at the Towne and the Bean Scene for $7. Cash only.