Amin review – the builder, the divorcee and a forbidden love

In this sombre and thoughtful drama, a Senegalese construction worker falls for the French woman whose house he is remodelling

Last week, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s A Season in France was released here, a film about the migrant African experience in France, for workers and asylum seekers – an experience of marginalisation and alienation. Now there is Philippe Faucon’s sombre, thoughtful if emotionally subdued and unemphatic film on very much the same theme.

Amin (Moustapha Mbengue) is a Senegalese construction worker in France, sending money to his wife Aïcha (Mareme N’Diaye) who is back in the old country looking after their three children and Amin’s mother, dealing with Amin’s arrogant, overbearing brother, and yearning to be brought over to France so the whole family can be together. But Amin is having an affair with the divorcee whose house he is remodelling. This is Gabrielle, who is played by Emmanuelle Devos in the same faintly reticent style that governs the whole film.

There is something very restrained about the way their relationship is conceived and the way Faucon sidesteps the issue of what consequences it is liable to have. It is usual to bring in concepts of exoticisation and “the other” when discussing fictional sexual relationships of this kind, but the love between Gabrielle and Amin is so muted, even matter-of-fact, that there simply isn’t much of the transgressive charge that would be important to this kind of reading.

What is interesting is the unparochial way Faucon calmly locates his film both in France and Senegal so that neither of the two scenes is more “real” than the other, and in France splits the narrative focus between Amin and his friend and fellow migrant Abdelaziz (Noureddine Benallouche) whose life is a kind of alternative reality to Amin’s – his daughters have grown up in France and made a good life there. A good, if sometimes underpowered movie.

Contributor

Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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