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SAMBA (review)

Written and Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano

Starring Omar Sy, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Tahar Rahim

In 2011, directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano charmed audiences across the globe with their film THE INTOUCHABLES. After making its way through international film festivals, the film quickly became one of the highest grossing French films of all time. The pair built upon what made their last film so successful, bringing us SAMBA, a fun, moving dramedy.

THE INTOUCHABLES focused on the unlikely pairing of a lower class black man, with an aristocratic, white quadriplegic. SAMBA follows with another unlikely pairing, that of Charlotte Gainsbourg and Omar Sy. Sy plays the title character, an immigrant from Senagal, who has been living in France for ten years. After a misunderstanding with police, Samba is told his application for citizenship has been denied and that he must leave the country. Enter Alice (Gainsbourg), an inexperienced immigration worker assigned to Samba’s case. On the first day of Alice’s job, she is warned to keep an emotional distance between her and her charges. Alice ignores this, and soon forms a personal and romantic connection to Samba.


Like it’s predecessor, SAMBA balances political comedy with humour. The film has a lot to say about the errors in the French immigration system, as well as interracial relationships across social classes. While these themes are always present, they are mostly covered up by the film’s comedy. Sy, who provided most of the comedy in THE INTOUCHABLES, takes on a much more dramatic turn in this film. Strangely enough, the one who brings in the laughs is Tahar Rahim, an actor known for playing edgy roles in acclaimed films like THE PAST and A PROPHET. Gainsbourg’s performance nicely contrasts with her recent work with director Lars von Trier, as it’s clear that she’s enjoying the fun she is having onscreen.

While the film is very funny, it uses humour a little too often, sometimes missing the opportunity to present great drama. Nakache and Toledano have clearly found their niche though, and like they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

3.5 sheep


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