out of Five
Running time: 107
This heart-warming and socially conscious French drama is poignantly beautiful with a standout lead performance from director Robert Guediguian’s muse, Ariane Ascaride.
What’s it all about?
Written and directed by Robert Guediguian, The Snows of Kilimanjaro tells the story of Michel (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), a fifty-something union worker, who unselfishly accepts redundancy along with his much younger employees. Even though he’s lost his job, Michel couldn’t be happier at home with his loving wife of thirty years, Marie-Claire (Ariane Ascaride), their children and grandchildren and after receiving a trip to Tanzania from their loved ones for their anniversary, the pair couldn’t be more content. But when two armed and masked men break into their home, beating them and robbing them of their hard-earned cash, their happiness is shattered and the loving couple struggle to seek justice without cluttering their consciences.
Inspired by the Victor Hugo poem, How Good Are the Poor, The Snows of Kilimanjaro is a well-paced political tale of French working class life. As Michel (played brilliantly and modestly by Darroussin), struggles to make ends meet by delivering catalogues and desperately seeks closure from his life-altering attack, the film respectfully raises the topical and poignant issue of where ageing hardworking social and political activists now stand in a recession-damaged society.
Nestled by a punchy score, Guediguian’s script is excellent, ensuring each character - from Michel and Marie-Claire’s concerned offspring to the young bartender who somehow knows exactly which drink Marie-Claire needs to sooth her stresses – remains relevant and involved at all times.
Robert Guediguian is confidently superb in the director’s seat, extracting natural and noteworthy performances from the entire cast – particularly Ariane Ascaride, who truly dazzles as the limitlessly kind and humble Marie-Claire – to produce a thoroughly moving and thought-provoking portrait of the true strength of compassion and forgiveness. Visually, The Snows of Kilimanjaro is warm and gentle, presenting beautiful shots of Guedigiuian’s native Marseilles, which expertly mirrors and amplifies the film’s sympathetic characters and storyline.
With its uplifting plot carrying important social and political messages and its fantastic lead performances, The Snows of Kilimanjaro is an emotional film that will stay with you. Recommended.