Following his award-laden outing with Fatima, director Philippe Faucon returns with yet another finely observed immigrant drama. The title character of Faucon’s Amin, played with winningly stoic charisma by Moustapha Mbengue, is an alpha Senegalese who splits his time between backbreaking physical labor in Paris and heart-wrenching reunions with his estranged family in Africa.
Awaiting impatiently in his Senegalese village are Aïcha, his incandescently beautiful wife (Marème N’Diaye), and his three somewhat unbelievably exquisite children.
Awaiting in France is money. And sex – with an amiable bourgeoise, Gabrielle, in a pitch-perfect performance by longtime French favorite Emmanuelle Devos. Gabrielle transforms home improvement projects undertaken by the muscular Amin into mutual sexual healing sessions. She, recovering from a messy separation from a standard-issue prick of an ex, and he, wondering which continent to call home, console each other with the intimacies that occur between the sheets.
Faucon cuts back and forth between Senegal and France, with mixed but never disappointing results. Aïcha, in a show-stealing turn by N’Diaye, confronts the patriarchal society that tries to hem her in, treating her as a widow-by any-other-name because her husband is in faraway France.
Amin, for his part, lives in a dormitory of immigrant workers (played by an excellent Afro-Arab ensemble), who pool euros for school development projects back home, resort to whores out of sexual loneliness and navigate families sired in both France and their home countries. The situations in Africa and France come across as complex, confounding and, above all, human.
A welcome antidote to the tenor of the times, Amin quietly – oh so quietly – presents to us worlds as they actually might be, far from the braying polemics consuming contemporary Europe and America. For this, we owe writer/director Faucon a debt of gratitude – and for showcasing two hitherto unfamiliar but searingly authentic Senegalese actors: Mbengue and, especially, N’Diaye.