A Season in France
The latest feature film from Chadian filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, A Season in France follows the plight of an African family seeking asylum in France after fleeing their war-torn country – the mother killed during their escape. However, after their request is denied, father Abbas (Eriq Ebouaney) is left to pick up the pieces and find a home for his two children, turning to the help of his French girlfriend Carole (Sandrine Bonnaire). Honing in on the contemporary political climate, particularly with views on immigration, Haroun paints a moving picture of one family stuck in the middle of an increasingly hopeless situation. Comparable to an African Ken Loach, the director is an expert at drawing viewers into the circumstances in a relatable fashion, though he isn’t always successful in his execution.
By far the best aspect of the film is Ebouaney, who gives a spectacularly moving performance as a father trying to hold his life together. The Frenchman exudes a wholly likeable and painfully human presence that lights up the screen, making us smile uncontrollably one moment and cry the next. Ebouaney is undoubtedly the central pillar that supports the feature, but that is not to dismiss the rest of the cast, who all give equally strong performances – especially the two youngsters.
Where the project begins to stumble is in its presentation, which unnecessarily overcomplicates a simple premise by jumping between narrative viewpoints. While the story is primarily told from the father’s perspective, there are a handful of times where his son will narrate his thoughts to provide extra information on events. Had this been a bigger focus throughout the plot or if each family member had their own chance to express their viewpoints on events, this could have enabled for a richer payoff. Instead, the son’s voiceover becomes no more than a distracting inclusion that only highlights a greater potential.
Alongside the confused viewpoints, the project’s pacing remains at a constant crawl throughout. Although the presentation is competent from a technical standpoint – with the exception of a few peculiar editing choices – Haroun does little to breathe much life into his project. Outside of pivotal dramatic moments, there’s not much to hold the viewer’s attention.
An undoubtedly relevant film that’s supported by incredible performances, the sheer underwhelming nature of A Season in France only serves to showcase how great it almost is.
A Season in France is released in select cinemas on 14th June 2019.
Watch the trailer for A Season in France here: