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For his first film as director, Roshdy Zem - which has often acted in
films with a strong political content - has chosen quite a difficult
and controversial theme: the Jew-Arabian relationship; but he makes a
very consensual work.
This relationship is symbolized through a couple of people in France, the beautiful Cécile De France, playing Clara, a young Jew physio, and Zem himself, playing Ismael, an Arabian pianist. Both of them are nonpractising, but will have to face the reactions of their family and friends when wanting to make their love official.
First, the film really is a comedy, although dealing with this problematic theme. This is, I think, a good choice, considering the weight of the current developments, particularly in France. But making a "light" film was not the aim: as already said, Roshdy Zem is an engaged actor(cf. Ingigènes recently, or most of the films he played in). The director indeed is a real humanist, and has always fought for this concept of equality and fraternity, pretended basis of french society. That is why he uses derision and humor to stress the incredible tensions a love affair between two not-religious people can create because of their inheritance.
So, the film is nice and beautiful, etc... But because of its theme, it had to make people think and react, which is not allowed by an useless happy end (the one minute too long), probably imposed by the production. While during all of the film, Zem shows the difficulties caused by this difference between the two characters, the end totally dilutes it, showing a great agreement. Of course, this is only the story of two particular people, but the uncertainties seen in Clara's and Ismael's eyes in the before-last scene would have given the film a more symbolist and universal end.
For all the seriousness of the topic in examining whether race, culture
and religion would come to play in a relationship between two lovers,
the last movie I had watched which broached the topic, was the zany
Adam Sandler comedy You Don't Mess With The Zohan, where his Israeli
superspy falls for a Palestinian hairdresser many miles from home at
the Big Apple. Bad Faith tackles the same core issues, and while it
does have its funny moments, contains more thoughtful insights to this
real world predicament.
Ismael (Roschidy Zem, who also directed this movie) and Clara (Cecile De France) are the perfect cross-cultural couple who has spent the last 4 years in a trouble-free relationship. Being non-practising in their respective religions (he's Muslim while she's Jew), the notion of religion, race and culture doesn't factor into their relationship until the coming of an unexpected baby. The consideration of having to inform their respective parents fed on their fears of having them reject their other half, and it even boils right down to details such as the baby's name, whom Ismael is dead set with naming him after his dad.
This exploration of unfounded fears provide much verbose insight to some of the nagging thoughts one would probably have when trying to appease the older generation, who in their earnestness would like to see an in-law coming from the same cultural/religious background for ease of assimilating with one another, and the potential avoidance of conflicts. At one point, one of the parents requested their child to consider all the trouble they would expect from frowning neighbours in their community, which stem from the lack of understanding, and fueled by deep prejudice and discrimination.
Which is a reminder that usually, a union of 2 actually is a union of more, which includes immediate family members, like it or not, who play a huge role in determining if the union thereafter would be stress-free. Clara's parents Victor (Jean-Pierre Cassel) and Lucie (Martine Chevallier) become confused with their daughter's choice for a husband, and the former works at Ismael being converted to Judaism to appease his wife, much to Ismael's amusement. On the other hand, Ismael finds difficulty in breaking the news to his mother, for fear of what he thinks will be a downright disapproval given Clara's background.
This examination of issues will test the resolve, depth of love and trust that the couple has for each other as it tears through the fabric of their open-mindedness and beliefs, and it's not always just between the two couple though, as Ismael's best friend Milou (Pascal Elbe) who is also a Jew, provide yet another outlet for the venting of frustration and deep rooted fears.
But don't be mistaken it's not all doom and gloom. Despite some genuinely funny laugh out loud moments, Bad Faith does provide for some critical moments where you're more than likely to be finding yourself rooting for the couple against all adversary that come their way. Both leads are charismatic enough for anyone in the audience to want to wish their characters well (The last time I saw Cecile De France was in the bloody gore movie High Tension, so it's a very different take here to see her in a romantic comedy) and it does play on some of our unfounded fears, so it's really just taking things as they come, while remaining optimistic that they will indeed turn out for the better, especially when you have love conquering all.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Clara and Ismael are lovers who find themselves in a quandary after she
finds out she is pregnant. Clara, after all, is Jewish and Ismael is a
Muslim. How to break the news to their respective families becomes a
nightmare for the couple. They fear the reaction on each side because
of the eternal problems and distrusts between the two factions.
While Clara arranges a dinner to introduce Ismael to her parents, the Breitmans, conservative Jews, she does so hoping for the best. Their reaction to their involvement doesn't have the awaited result, without ever mentioning her pregnancy. She figures to let the news sink in. Only Clara's aunt Martha is happy about the announcement. Ismael, also, hesitates to introduce his girlfriend to his widowed mother and sister because he is afraid of their reaction as well. The lovers' lives change completely as each one of them bring things they associate as being part of their beliefs into their relationship. Thus, each one of them take a different approach to the religion problem and how to deal with it.
Roschdy Zem, an actor who has worked steadily in the French cinema, takes a leap into directing, as well as appearing in the lead of this satisfying comedy. The issues that he and his co-screenplay writers, Pascal Elbe and Agnes De Sacy raise, are in a way, what happens when a mixed marriage is announced. The problem is not with the two people that love each other. In most cases the flack comes from the parents who feel each part must marry their "own kind", something that should be obsolete in this day and age. In this case, what people take for faith, is in reality a fear of the unknown, based on their own prejudices.
Lovely Cecile De France plays Clara with conviction. Roschdy Zem makes a good case for his Ismael. Jean Pierre Cassel, in one of his last appearances on the screen, is Victor. Leila Bekhti is impressive as Mounia, Ismael's mother. Berangere Bonvoisin shows up as Martha, the only free spirit in the film.
Roschdy Zem shows he has a keen eye for the subject in which he is dealing. One can only wish him good luck and hope he'll decide to undertake another thorny issue for his next film.
Thanks to the stupid french DVD market which takes deaf for nothing!
More than a half of french DVDs are without subtitles and this movie belongs to this group!
So i could't follow all the story and that's explain maybe why i find this movie terrible!
Religions are the roots to this complicated but unbelievable romance: the Jewish girl & the Muslim man are in love while also very closed to their family.
For me and my personal experience, the miscommunication is the key to their relationship problem not faith: it's words said or unsaid that hurt the relations, no more no less!
Here, the couple can wait 4 years to announce their romance to their family!
In addition to this bad script, the other characters (friends and family) are really boring so I just watch it without conviction!
At last, months ago, i would have watched it for Cecile De France but right now, it was rather for Leila Behkti. She actually plays with talent her usual tom-boy sister! Unfortunately, her character lies in the shadows!
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