Our Ratings: 8/10 if you like that sort of thing, 2/10 if you don’t.
This is one of those films where you’ll either love it or you hate it where a review will do very little to change your mind.
Le Havre is as French as two hour lunch breaks, cheap vin and cruelty to geese, but much like leisurely lunches, affordable & quaffable wine and delicious fois gras, if you love it you love it a lot.
Le Havre is a city in the Seine-Maritime department of the Haute-Normandie region in France. It is situated in north-western France, on the right bank of the mouth of the river Seine on the English Channel. The location gives its title to the film and the fact that is a major sea link to England is an integral part of the narrative.
The film is Aki Kaurismäki’s second French-language feature and the Finnish filmmaker paints the city of Le Havre as an impossibly quaint and charming mix of France’s past and present, a multicultural melting pot that somehow remains stuck in a bygone era of baguettes, bars à vins and discussions about ducks.
In this location, with a very simple story of an illegal immigrant boy from Gabon named Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) who escapes from the police and is sheltered by Marcel Marx (André Wilms). Marcel is a former bohemian author from Paris but today scrapes a wage as a shoeshine in the port. The pair are thrust together at pivotal point in their life and while the result isn’t an hysterical “fish out of water” or cross culture laughathon it’s a really satisfying, French comedy that genuinely warms your heart.
Le Havre is a sublimely bewildering mix of drab and colorful, that blends these themes together naturally creating something that that can best be described as quietly magical.
Had this film been a typical Hollywood comedy then the cantankerous old guy would have had his love of life rekindled by the wide eyed innocence of the young boy. Had this been a classic Ealing comedy; then the disparate townsfolk would have banded together to save the day and score a victory against the immigration authorities and society as a whole.
Thankfully it does neither, and is all the more charming and delightful for it.
What’s more it’s a very slight and inoffensive film that never quite seems to get started, but anyone who has spent time in average French provisional town knows that these places do have all the verve and activity of a three toed Sloth, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t real heart beating, ever so slowly beneath the exterior.
Le Havre premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it received the FIPRESCI Prize it also received a Special Mention from the Ecumenical Jury and the dog Laika received a special Jury Prize from the Palm Dog jury. The film went on to win the top prize for best international film at the 2011 Munich International Film Festival, however I doubt very much it will enjoy the Oscar success of The Artist.