Dans la vie (Two Ladies)



Toronto International Film Festival

TORONTO -- The world could learn a thing or two about getting along from Esther and Halima, the two ladies in question in Philippe Faucon's nicely observed little film about an unlikely friendship.

In the Moroccan-born filmmaker's "Dans la vie" ("Two Ladies"), which screened at Toronto without a distributor, Selima, a young Arab nurse (Sabrina Ben Abdallah) takes a job attending to the needs of Esther, an ill-tempered paraplegic Jewish woman (Ariane Jacquot).

Despite her reputation for being difficult, Esther ends up getting along well enough with Selima--the two both share an Algerian background despite their different cultures and religions--that she also agrees having the young woman's devout Muslim mother, Halima (Zohra Mouffok), come in to cook for her.

So far, so good, but when circumstances require Esther moving in with Halima's family for a month, long-held prejudices on both sides come rushing to the forefront.

Fortunately the elderly women ultimately discover that their similarities outweigh their differences, and, despite what Halima's family and neighbors may think, they find themselves bonding.

Director Faucon, who also wrote the script along with Amel Amani, William Karel and Sarah Saada, has woven this multicultural tapestry with a great deal of warmth and humor, while sidestepping the twin traps of caricature and sanctimoniousness that too often go with the territory.

And what his cast of nonactors may lack in screen experience they more than compensate for in personality and an engaging naturalness that makes this 73-minute film an especially satisfying slice of contemporary French life.