Couscous (La Graine et le Mulet) (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/06/2008

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 150 mins

Wonderfully directed, beautifully acted and thoroughly engaging drama that's so naturalistic that you often feel you're watching a documentary.

What's it all about?
Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, Couscous (or La Graine et la Mulet) stars Habib Boufares as 60-year-old Slimane Beiji, the divorced head of a Franco-Arabic family. After losing his job at the local shipyard, Slimane is consumed with feelings of failure, but he's persuaded by his new partner's daughter, Rym (Hafsia Herzi) to pursue his dream of converting a dilapidated boat into a family restaurant that will specialise in his ex-wife's fish couscous.

With Rym's help, Slimane applies for the relevant licences and loans, but soon finds himself knee-deep in bureaucratic red tape. Undaunted, Slimane enlists his sons to help with the renovation and stakes everything on an opening night, hoping to persuade the various officials to change their minds. But will simmering family tensions ruin all his hard work?

The Good
The performances are excellent, particularly Boufares, who says very little and wears the same beaten expression throughout the film but whose eyes and actions speak volumes. Similarly, Herzi is terrific as the feisty Rym and there's strong support from both Bouraouia Marzouk and Hatika Karaoui as the two very different women in Slimane's life.

Kechiche maintains an extraordinarily naturalistic style throughout, to the point where you would swear you were watching a fly-on-the-wall documentary. He also allows scenes to play out at their own pace, for example, during a lengthy dinner sequence or an incredibly tense, heartbreaking sequence where Slimane's daughter-in-law (Alice Houri as Julia) has a hysterical fit.

The Great
It's hard to find a film that really justifies a lengthy running time and Couscous may seem a daunting prospect at 150 minutes. However, in this case, your emotional engagement with the characters intensifies as the reality of the dream becomes closer, so that by the end you're desperate for them to succeed.

Worth seeing?
Couscous is a superbly made family drama that packs a powerful emotional punch. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Couscous (La Graine et le Mulet) (15)
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Content updated: 18/10/2017 06:51

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