Under the Stars of Paris French Film Festival at Home

While the title might conjure up images of romance, this is a film that provides a considerably less shiny, sparkly vision of the city. A much more realistic depiction, though, for many in these times when the gap between rich and poor becomes steadily more pronounced.

Claus Drexel presents the world of the homeless and the lost, a world that exists – almost unseen – alongside the everyday working lives of the “average” citizen.

Christine (Catherine Frot) is homeless. We are never told what event took her from a laboratory researcher in Grenoble (a position held, I think, by the Director’s father) to become a bag lady on the streets of Paris, but this is her lot when we meet her. Sleeping rough, wandering the streets and eating at soup kitchens.

Then one winter evening she meets Suli (Mahamadou Yaffa) an 8 year old refugee who has become separated from his mother. Unable to shake him off, Christine tries to find out how he has come to be lost and alone. His inability to speak French limits any dialogue between them, and the non-vocal communication between the two provides one of the film’s strongest points.

Suli has a photo of his mother, which turns out to be attached to a notice of deportation. So, this unlikely pair set out to reunite mother and child before she is sent back. A task that would not have been easy under any circumstances is made so much harder by the simple fact of who they are. For who, in this unforgiving world, has the time or the inclination to stop and help an elderly bag lady and an illegal immigrant child who cannot speak their language? As they journey from the tents of the homeless, to detention centres, to the airport the answer is: not many.

The strength of the portrayal of the central characters is at the core of the film, and the chemistry between them is a joy in a story that provides little else in the way of uplift to our spirits. Can they possibly succeed in their quest? Well, of course I’m not going to tell you that, I’ll let you watch it for yourselves. It is, after all, a film well worth seeing.

Jim Welsh

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