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Tough, Tender French Immigrant Drama

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Ever since they have been granted important employee standing throughout the pandemic, meals deliverers on bikes have develop into a gradual fixture of the modern city panorama. And but, most us solely work together with them for a couple of seconds at a time, grabbing the field of pizza or bag of meals, saying thanks (if we’re well mannered sufficient) and shortly shutting the door.

What occurs after that’s the topic of director Boris Lojkine’s compelling third characteristic, The Story of Souleymane (L’Histoire de Souleymane), a sensible and really humanistic have a look at one immigrant’s grueling each day life in Paris, the place he struggles to make a residing and acquire authorized standing.

The Story of Souleymane

The Backside Line

Genuine and quietly compelling.

Venue: Cannes Movie Competition (Un Sure Regard)
Solid: Abou Sangare, Nina Meurisse, Alpha Oumar Sow, Emmanuel Yovanie, Younoussa Diallo, Keita Diallo
Director: Boris Lojkine

1 hour 42 minutes

One other film instantly involves thoughts right here, which is Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist basic, Bicycle Thieves. Each movies are structured as suspenseful, ticking-clock dramas the place males navigate a ruthless metropolis as they journey round on two wheels, doing the whole lot they will to get by.  

In some ways, Lojkine’s third characteristic performs like an replace of the postwar Italian masterpiece, exhibiting how the identical story might nonetheless occur immediately — at a time when immigrants occupy among the hardest working-class jobs in cities all over the world, and when such jobs are actually on the very backside of a dog-eat-dog gig economic system dominated by detached apps.

The movie’s eponymous hero, performed with fragility and growing emotional rigidity by non-actor Abou Sangare, labors for one such unnamed app (suppose Uber Eats or Deliveroo), racing round Paris’ rain-soaked streets with an isothermal bag to maintain the meals heat. Souleymane is a tough employee and clearly an sincere one, even when he his authorized state of affairs forces him to “rent” his driver identification from a fellow African who has papers.

That would all change if he manages to cross an interview with an immigration officer answerable for figuring out whether or not he deserves a coveted carte de séjour, which might permit him to dwell and work legally in France. The “story” of the movie’s title refers back to the story Souleymane is planning to inform the officer — a narrative he rehearses with a shady advisor (Alpha Oumar Sow) who claims to know the right way to manipulate the French system.

Set over three days, Lojkine’s script, which he co-wrote with Delphine Agut (Inshallah a Boy), by no means as soon as leaves Souleymane’s facet as he offers with setback after setback earlier than the large interview. The director clearly hung out researching his topic, revealing the nitty gritty of a job the place each single motion is monitored by an omnipotent app. He additionally exhibits how Souleymane is a component of a bigger coterie of African migrant deliverers — predominantly hailing from Guinea, Mali and the Ivory Coast — who earn so little cash that they need to spend their nights in a homeless shelter removed from the middle of city.

Many issues we take without any consideration, reminiscent of an everyday wage, a mattress to sleep in, or a household or associates one can rely on, are absent from Souleymane’s hardscrabble and lonely existence, even when he does often get some assist from his fellow migrants. What’s sure is that the Parisians he delivers to, and passes by on his bike, barely see him. (Creator’s observe: A number of scenes within the film have been shot round my very own neighborhood.)

One of many movie’s most transferring sequences includes a quick encounter between Souleymane and an outdated French man who lives alone in a top-floor condominium, and who turns into the one buyer in the whole film to ask the deliverer the place he’s from. Whether or not the person does so as a result of he’s truly interested in Souleymane, or as a result of he could also be senile, is one more unhappy fact on this brutally sincere depiction of a migrant’s life.

This doesn’t, nevertheless, imply that the movie feels overtly bleak, and like Lojkine’s debut characteristic, Hope (which performed in Cannes’ Critics’ Week), The Story of Souleymane is peppered with moments of tenderness and camaraderie, particularly amongst migrants prepared to assist one another out. One fast and telling scene, by which a kebab vendor provides Souleymane a free espresso, is sufficient to persuade us that humanity just isn’t utterly misplaced.

Per the press notes, the director labored with a skeleton crew to shoot on busy Paris streets, the place Sangare convincingly blends in with the gang. There’s positively a Dardennes brothers vibe to Tristan Galand’s over-the shoulder camerawork, which coasts behind the actor as he weaves out and in of site visitors or into darkish outdated buildings, though Lojkine additionally cites Romanian movies like 4 Months, 3 Weeks and a pair of Days as a reference.

The race-against-the-clock ingredient of the latter is current right here as effectively, resulting in a riveting finale by which Souleymane lastly exhibits up on the interview that may decide his future. By that time, he’s already been by way of hell, and as he sits down in entrance of the immigration officer (Nina Meurisse), we’re very a lot rooting for him to make it. And but, after a protracted back-and-forth that finds Souleymane step by step and painfully baring his soul, together with all he went by way of to get from Guinea to Paris within the first place, Lojkine leaves us questioning what making it even means should you lose a lot of your self within the course of.

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