Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 27, 2015 1:39 am 
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Amra is a dangerous driver

Amra (Hafsia Herzi, who gained notice in Abdellatif Kechiche's La graine et le mulet), a young Algerian woman, gropes for her cell phone will driving and hits a pedestrian. She will be liable but Angélique (Emilie Dequenne, who got her start in the Dardennes'Rosetta) comes forth, saying she saw the accident and it was not Amra's fault. This leads to a complicated relationship between the two young women, the innocent Amra and the far from guiltless Angelique. With a Friend Like Harry comes to mind, but a milder version. Deeply involved in the story also is Amra's husband, Lyès (Mounir Margoum), a hard working and honest Algerian construction worker who has no papers, and their little girl, Blanche (Thelma Deroche Marc),whom Angélique takes a great liking to, often hanging out with the little family at their remote cottage in the woods when she's not taking Amra off to party in her little convertible.

This is an idea that is played with successfully for a while, as Angélique's bad influence on Amra becomes evident, if superficial, and the moral complexity of their involvement grows; but the screenwriters (Fontaine and Marcia Romano) don't know quite where to go with it, and the ending leaves us unsatisfied, resolving things physically but not morally, and leaving us with the distinct impression that Amra might deserve punishment. She's really dangerous behind the wheel, it turns out. But surely that should not be the point. What saves this little film is the depth of the performances, particularly by Duquesne, and the authentic feel of Amra and Lyès' relationship. The action ultimately doesn't get much beyond TV-drama level, unfortunately.

Camille Fontaine was a writer on Coco Before Chanel and is a graduate of La Fémis, the French national cinema school.

Par accident ("By Accident"), 83 mins., debuted at Angoulême 26 August and opened in French theaters 14 Oct. and pretty well received by critics (AlloCiné press rating 3.6). Watched at MK2 Hautefeuille 27 Oct. 2015.

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