4 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(1user review)

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Genres collide in this wistful, atmospheric first feature from French-Senegalese director Mati Diop.

Young lovers are separated in this wistful, atmospheric first feature from Mati Diop, the first black female director to compete for the Cannes Palme d’Or. Soon after we meet spirited teenager Ada (Mame Bineta Sané) in Dakar, she is grinning at Souleiman (Ibrahima Traore) across the road as traffic whizzes past, his solemn, lovelorn face holding secrets she doesn’t yet know. Soon there will be an ocean between them, and she will be left to wonder if he is alive or dead, while marrying a wealthy man she doesn’t love. There’s something Shakespearean about her predicament – perhaps it’s no coincidence that there are echoes of the fish tank scene in Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo + Juliet’, showing smitten teens whose eyes meet across a divide that will only get bigger.

But ‘Atlantique’ is more than a tragic love story: Diop weaves in many genres, from social commentary to supernatural drama. This film’s power to surprise is one of its greatest pleasures, while also the source of its frustrations: don’t come here looking for easy answers.

Diop, who is also an actress, elicits terrific performances from her young cast of newcomers, and she sets a scene vividly, guiding us into Senegalese life through Ada’s daily actions, which range from the mundane to the life-changing. Her loveless wedding to Omar (Babacar Sylla) not only gives insight into local rituals, but it highlights the limited choices for a young woman of modest means. This man with a flashy house and car is presented as the best option for Ada, but she wants more – as do the desperate, unpaid workers who attempt to flee to Spain on a boat. ‘Atlantique’ highlights the risks and uncertainties of attempted migration by focusing on the women left behind, their bond strengthening as they sit silently in a beach club at night, listening to the lapping of the waves that may have taken their men.

A police procedural subplot is less compelling, but the pay-off excuses this narrative contrivance. Diop tackles serious issues in the framework of a touching and romantic drama with intriguing sways into genre territory, leaving the viewer much like Ada: a little confused, but oddly bewitched.

By: Anna Smith



Release details

0 mins

Cast and crew

Mati Diop
Mati Diop, Olivier Demangel
Ibrahima Mbaye
Aminata Kane
Abdou Balde

Users say (1)

3 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

3 / 5

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1 person listening

This beguiling debut from Senegalese director Mati Diop of Senegal made a big impression at this year’s Cannes Festival, although she is well upstaged by stunning cinematography of the seas and dusty towns along the West African coast.

The film manages to combine three interesting plot lines - exploited and unpaid workers in a Third World country take to the sea to find a better life in Europe, superstition in the form of zombie-type apparitions and a routine police procedural into an arson incident.

While this is going on, the mighty Atlantic swirls and roars day and night while the young heroine, the victim of an arranged marriage pines for her real love who is feared lost at sea.

It can be hard work to fathom what is happening as the poor inhabitants of the dusty coastal area near Dakar go about their business but Mati Diop’s deft direction carries you along with her in the dusty streets and the ever-present Atlantic Ocean.

Definitely not a film for those who like everything cut and dried - otherwise, sit back and just drift along with the tide (literally at times).