A heroic central performance from the Congolese actress Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu is reason alone to see this gripping drama.
Franco-Senegalese film-maker Alain Gomis has created a film portrait in an ambient social-realist style, showing us a woman called Félicité: a bar singer in the tough streets of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Gomis leaves it up to us to determine the precise level of irony in her name.
Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu is a formidable presence as Félicité, a single mum of a tearaway teen boy Samo (Gaetan Claudia), for whom she must stay strong. She is scratching a living with her music, evidently bruised and humbled by the reverses of her life, drifting into a relationship with Tabu (Papi Mpaka), the boozy, unreliable guy who once came to repair her fridge.
Then her son has a motorbike accident and the hospital needs a million Congolese francs (about £500) before surgery can be carried out. Félicité must now go around to the people in her life asking variously for loans, or the money that she is owed – a process that exposes the fault lines in her own life. This is interspersed with scenes of her singing with her band and also, mysteriously but arrestingly, the Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra playing pieces by Arvo Pärt.
Cinematographer Céline Bozon contrives tremendous streetscape scenes around Kinshasa itself. It’s a film with seriousness and compassion, though a little lengthy and diffuse. Dramatic storm clouds gather and pass overhead without ever quite bursting into rain. – Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian
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96% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes.
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France, Belgium, Senegal, Germany, Lebanon, 2017 |Language: Lingala, French | 123 minutes | Cert: CLUB
Director: Alain Gomis
Cast: Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu, Gaetan Claudia, Papi Mpaka