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The Secret of the Grain (2007)
"La graine et le mulet" (original title)

7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 4,558 users   Metascore: 83/100
Reviews: 37 user | 102 critic | 16 from Metacritic.com

At the port of Sète, Mr. Slimani, a tired 60-year-old, drags himself toward a shipyard job that has become more and more difficult to cope with as the years go by. He is a divorced father ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Habib Boufares ...
Slimane Beiji
...
Rym
Farida Benkhetache ...
Karima
Abdelhamid Aktouche ...
Hamid
Alice Houri ...
Julia
Bouraouïa Marzouk ...
Souad
Cyril Favre ...
Serguei
Leila D'Issernio ...
Lilia
Abelkader Djeloulli ...
Kader
Bruno Lochet ...
Mario
...
José
Sami Zitouni ...
Majid
...
Olfa
Mohamed Benabdeslem ...
Riadh
Hatika Karaoui ...
Latifa
Edit

Storyline

At the port of Sète, Mr. Slimani, a tired 60-year-old, drags himself toward a shipyard job that has become more and more difficult to cope with as the years go by. He is a divorced father who forces himself to stay close to his family despite the schisms and tensions that are easily sparked off and that financial difficulties make even more intense. He is going through a delicate period in his life and, recently, everything seems to make him feel useless: a failure. He wants to escape from it all and set up his own restaurant. However, it appears to be an unreachable dream given his meager, irregular salary that is not anywhere near enough to supply what he needs to realize his ambition. But he can still dream and talk about it with his family in particular. A family that gradually gives its support to this project, which comes to symbolize the means to a better life. Thanks to its ingeniousness and hard work, this dream soon becomes a reality...or almost.... Written by Venice Film Festival

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Best French Film of the Year See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

12 December 2007 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The Secret of the Grain  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$9,864 (USA) (2 January 2009)

Gross:

$86,356 (USA) (27 February 2009)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Shooting was supposed to start in the summer of 2005 but one of the leading actors was sick, which resulted in a major delay. Thus, filming actually started on 5 September 2005 and was still running by 16 January 2006. The set was on a boat in the port of Sète for at least six weeks from October to December 2006. Outside temperatures were very low, as opposed to what they should have been if schedule could have been held. This led the production to set up large tents near the boat with heating systems for the actors and extras to remain comfortable between takes. See more »

Quotes

Julia: [talking to Slimane about her husband] Is that a family man ?
Serguei: Never there for his kid.
See more »

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Featured in Maltin on Movies: Flipped (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Moving human drama with subtlety
9 March 2008 | by (Melbourne, Australia) – See all my reviews

I have heard this film being compared to Eat Drink Man Woman, which is fair enough, if not slightly deceptive. Sure, there's a similar veneration for the art of cooking and how this draws and binds families. But the film casts a wider net than this may suggest. For me, it strongly resembles the humanistic and naturalistic stories of Robert Guédiguian, particularly La ville est tranquille (The Town is Quiet).

The actors are largely non-professionals. The use of long takes, including long stretches of dialogue, is very impressive and suggests that some of the script may be improvisational. I liked the chit-chat, the small details of daily life (like toilet-training a child), that films normally gloss over.

The film has a documentary look and feel and parts are like a fly-on-the-wall at a family gathering. For me, the importance of this is to convey how human this family is, with a rich and warm cultural heritage. In particular, it renders as impotent, irrational fears of Muslim culture.

The film works on multiple levels because it taps into the universal everyday concerns that potentially touch us all in one form or another: prejudice against immigrants, attitudes towards Islam post 9-11, globalisation, ageism in the workforce, the effects of poverty, family breakdown and more. Yet, importantly, the film is not preachy but merely presents life in a matter-of-fact way.

The female performances in the film are particularly affecting, especially the young Hafsia Herzi playing Rym, the daughter of Slimane's lover, and Leila D'Issernio who plays his Russian daughter-in-law.

At 148 minutes, the film is quite long, though this is not apparent until the final scene, which seems to be prolonged in real-time for a particular effect. On paper, the story looks like something we've seen before, but avoids all the clichés we might expect. I loved it.


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