A Season in France (3 stars)

A Season in France

North African director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun paints a human face on the refugee crisis in a Paris-set drama

Great expectations are harried away to weary desperation in A Season in France. This plaintive drama from North African director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (recipient of the 2010 Cannes Jury Prize for A Screaming Man) paints a human face on the refugee crisis as it follows an African migrant and his children trying to make a new life in Paris. Overly predictable in places, it is shot through with a gentle compassion that makes for a touching tale.

Widower Abbas (Eriq Ebouaney) and his brother Etienne (Bibi Tanga) have fled the violence of Bangui in the Central African Republic. Their high hopes of a fresh start in Paris are relentlessly worn down by the grim realities of their situation. Abbas was a French teacher and now works as a market porter, drifting through a succession of cramped, temporary homes. Philosophy professor Etienne is employed as a doorman at a pharmacy. Abbas is currently appealing against having been rejected for asylum. Everything about their circumstances seems defined by absence. Life in France is measured by the lack of status, the loss of dignity, the sense of not being welcome, and of running out of legal options if there is to be any chance of remaining.

The film is at its most persuasive in the calm contemplation of everyday domestic scenes, as Abbas cares for his two stoical children, brushing away the disappointment in their eyes with the promise that, 'We will have our own place some day.' Still haunted by his late wife, he tentatively pursues a relationship with Carole (Sandrine Bonnaire). A birthday party for Carole brings them all together and feels like a rare moment of light in a world turning increasingly dark.

Sometimes plodding in its execution, A Season in France is never less than sincere in its emotions, capturing a sense of lives that can all too easily remain invisible.

Limited release from Fri 14 Jun.

A Season in France

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • France
  • 1h 40min
  • 12
  • Directed by: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
  • Cast: Eriq Ebouaney, Sandrine Bonnaire, Aalayna Lys
  • UK release: 6 October 2017

Abbas (Ebouaney) and his brother Etienne (Tanga) fled violence in the Central African Republic, but find the grim realities of life in France wearing at their hopes. Predictable in places, but compassionate and sincere about lives that can all too easily remain invisible.