Le Havre

Le Havre is the story of an intergenerational friendship, portrayed as miraculously probable.

When a group of refugees from Gabon are found in a shipping container at the French port of Le Havre, Idrissa makes a break for it – and becomes a wanted (young) man. 

Fortunately, he encounters Marcel Marx, an elderly shoeshiner at the heart of his community, who undertakes to protect and hide him.

Marcel and Idrissa are aided by a cast of generous-spirited locals in evading the laconic Inspector Monet, while Marcel's own troubles loom in the background after his wife is admitted to hospital with a mysterious illness.

 

Against the grim backdrop of the refugee crisis, Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismäki offers a rare depiction of profoundly straight-forward goodness. 

In the New York Times, A. O. Scott suggested that “Figuring that we already know something about how harsh life can be, he reminds us of its modest charms and fleeting beauties, and of how easy it is, in the face of cruelty, to behave decently.”

The central figure of Idrissa casts the film's simplicity as childlike in a way that deepens rather than diminishes.

The film's fairy-tale quality also allows – and partially conceals – radical political implications. 

Within its whimsy and sentimentality, Michael Sicinski, writing for Criterion, identifed “an abiding streak of anarchism, a dedication to free association, borderless states, and the absolute right of all to have access to everything they need, not just to survive but to thrive.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A scrupulously stylised thriller; a love letter to French cinema (with a cameo by The 400 Blows’ Jean-Paul Léaud); a political indictment of contemporary Europe; an unusual and understated portrait of childhood: Le Havre is a riveting and wholly charming balance of parts that might usually seem contradictory.

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