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Plenty of French films deal with family problems, but few have tackled them from the offbeat angles of I’m All Yours (Je suis a vous tout de suite), a quirky, kinky and socially resonant dramedy about a Franco-Algerian clan whose four disparate members have an extremely hard time keeping it together.
Written and directed by Baya Kasmi – who co-penned Hippocrates: Diary of a French Doctor and The Names of Love – this intriguingly uneven debut tries to cover too many topics at once and is hardly as funny as it should be, but gets by with strong performances and an eye for depicting France’s changing cultural face, especially in the ever-newsworthy banlieues. A mid-sized release at home should yield modest theatrical returns, with possibilities for overseas play at fests and in Euro art houses.
After a brief and outrageous opening, we’re introduced to a nuclear family that’s far from normal: Hanna (Vimala Pons), the daughter, is a sex-addicted HR executive who fires employees and then shags them to make up for it. Her brother, Hakim (Mehdi Djaadi), is a former street thug who’s converted into a hardcore Muslim, convincing himself that moving to Algeria is the best solution for his woes in the Paris suburbs. Their mom (Agnes Jaoui) is a hippy home-psychologist who will do anything to maker her kids happy. And their grocer dad (Ramzy) has a nearly pathological sense of generosity, going to extremes – and foregoing any financial gain – to please his local clientele.
Despite receiving equal amounts of love from their folks, Hanna and Hakim have grown into polar opposites and seem to hate one another with a vengeance. The reasons why will be divulged later on (during an unconvincing plot twist straight out of a Todd Solodnz movie), but their animosity presents a more pressing problem: Hakim has a fatal kidney disease and the only donor who can save him is his sis. Meanwhile, Hanna is sleeping with Hakim’s doctor (Laurent Capelluto), mostly out of habit but also because she might really like the guy, even if he’s convinced she’s actually a prostitute.
There’s definitely a lot going on at once here, and Kasmi winds up tossing too many ingredients into the mixing bowl, yielding a batch that can feel both over- and under-cooked at the same time: The jokes involving Hanna’s nymphomania grow tiring after the first scene, and also feel a tad too reminiscent of the main character in The Names of Love (whose director, Michel Leclerc, co-wrote the script for Yours). But the moments involving Hakim’s zealotry, as well as the “Islamization” of the neighborhood – where a deluxe Halal supermarket is driving his dad’s shop out of business – are clever and well observed, without ever feeling condescending towards the religion.
It’s rare to see a comedy about multicultural Frenchies that doesn’t tumble into pure parody, and Basmi deserves credit for steering clear of the kind of racist stereotypes found in many a likeminded local effort (such as last year’s smash hit, Serial (Bad) Weddings). At the same time, the director doesn’t quite know where to concentrate all her energy, jumping between rom-com, social dramedy and childhood trauma story without finding the right tone to link everything together.
Performances are lively, if a bit maudlin at times, with newcomer Djaadi (The Sweet Escape) a particular standout as a young dad caught between faith and family. Cinematography by Guillaume Deffontaines (Camille Claudel 1915) does a good job depicting both the brighter side of Paris public housing and the beauty of Algeria’s impoverished-looking shores: When Hakim finally settles into the latter, he finds a way of life that’s no better or worse than the one back home. Just different.
Production companies: Kare Productions, Delante Cinema
Cast: Vimala Pons, Mehdi Djaadi, Agnes Jaoui, Ramzy, Laurent Capelluto
Director: Baya Kasmi
Screenwriters: Baya Kasmi, Michel Leclerc
Producers: Antoine Rein, Fabrice Goldstein, Caroline Adrian, Antoine Gandaubert
Director of photography: Guillaume Deffontaines
Production designer: Jean-Marc Tran Tan Ba
Costume designer: Melanie Gautier
Editor: Monica Coleman
Composer: Jerome Bensoussan
Casting director: Aurelie Guichard
Sales agent: Indie Sales
No rating, 100 minutes
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