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The Secret of the Grain
IMDB Rating: 7.4/10 from 5,073 votes
Release: 17 April 2008 (Netherlands) /

The Secret of the Grain

Genre: Drama
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: 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

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Critic 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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