Francophiles understand that Vincent Lindon’s presence in any film is a bonus, as few actors know how to translate sad-eyed, macho gruffness into so many different flavors; he can do casually sensitive-sexy (Friday Night), chauvinistically callous (Chaos) or an everyman in existential free fall (La Moustache), all with the brutish precision of a pro boxer. That Lindon is the best thing in Philippe Lioret’s drama about a swim coach and a young Iraqi (Ayverdi) isn’t really a surprise. The fact that he almost single-handedly keeps this wobbly parable from sinking under the weight of its social-issues agenda is disappointing, but don’t discount the pleasure of watching a weathered star breathe life into an otherwise banal film.
Lindon doesn’t even make an appearance until roughly a half hour in, as Lioret focuses on his immigrant hero’s attempt to smuggle himself from France to England. Once the teen meets Lindon’s weary father figure, Welcome’s procedural-like rigor gives way to typical TV-movie dramatics: paternal bonding, prejudiced neighbors, arranged marriages, tearful phone conversations, doomed quests. Yet whenever the threat of total derailment creeps into view, the hulking French star will make an offhanded gesture or turn menacing on a dime, and bam! A sense of actual humanity is injected into the mix. You have our gratitude, monsieur.—David Fear
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