SUNDANCE REVIEW: Problematic Script Dooms 'A Few Days of Respite'

Gloomy drama’s thin plot can’t gain enough traction to sustain interest.

Writer-director-actor Amor Hakkar drama, also starring Marina Vlady and Samir Guesmi, leaves storylines unresolved and stretches the premise.

 

PARK CITY — Amor Hakkar’s admirably humanist melodrama strains for impact almost as much as it does to gain momentum against a tide of narrative inertia. Best bets for continued exhibition will be fests with international or LGBT focus.

Mohsen (Hakkar) and Hassan (Samir Guesmi) have recently fled Iran, where their gay relationship could mean a death sentence. Human traffickers have dropped them at the forested Italian-French border so they can eventually make their way to Paris. At a small-town train station enroute, Mohsen encounters Yolande (Marina Vlady), an attractive 60ish widow. After he helps her with her luggage and accompanies her on the train ride (he speaks fluent French after years teaching at the university level in Tehran), she offers him some day-labor work at her apartment in a slightly larger small town, unaware that he’s traveling with Hassan.

The two men take a hotel room in the nondescript burg and decide that Mohsen should try to earn some cash while there’s an opportunity, before moving on to Paris. The next day he begins painting Yolande’s living room, which soon leads to a lunch invitation and then the offer of a bed for the night. It’s pretty clear where the lonely Yolande is headed with her transparent plotting and why Mohsen never appears to suspect her ulterior motives strains credibility almost as much as it does his relationship with Hassan.

Hakkar’s script is problematic practically from the outset, barely disclosing the scope of the men’s relationship, introducing story points that are left unresolved and ignoring obvious lapses in logic. A few moments of awkward humor mark a welcome respite from all the dour drama, but the performances are so underplayed as to leave very little impression -- stylistically the film is strictly serviceable. At 80 minutes, it barely reaches feature-length, stretching the premise well past the point of interest. 

 

Venue: Sundance Film Festival, World Cinema Dramatic Competition
Production company: Sarah-Films
Cast: Marina Vlady, Amor Hakkar, Samir Guesmi
Director-screenwriter: Amor Hakkar
Producer: Florence Bouteloup
Director of photography: Nicolas Roche
Music: Joseph Macera
Costume designer: Kim Nezzar
Editor: Juliette Kempf
Sales: Sarah-Films
No rating, 80 minutes

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