After scoring a huge worldwide hit with their cross-cultural odd-couple charmer ‘The Intouchables’, French duo Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache deliver more of the same. ‘Samba’ is the story of an immigrant rights worker played by Charlotte Gainsbourg who finds herself falling for Omar Sy’s illegal Senegalese kitchen porter. After ten years in France, he’s just been told he must leave, but Gainsbourg is on his case – even though she’s only just holding her own life together.
Both actors are tremendous. Sy adds powerful dramatic shading to his usual irresistible charm, while Gainsbourg hints at a sunnier disposition beneath her volatile nervousness. Add Tahar Rahim as Sy’s cheeky-chappie Brazilian mate, and you have a film crammed with likeable characters that is in no hurry to end. Moving at an amiable dawdle, this slightly rosy portrait of the illegal immigrant’s hand-to-mouth struggle also teases us with hints of romance. Essentially, it’s an audience-friendly approach to a subject that’s usually a tougher sell. Slightly superficial, not quite convincing, but always entertaining.