Starring: Omar Sy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Tahar Rahim

Written by: Oliver Nakache, Eric Toledano
Based on the novel: Samba pour la France by Delphine Couline
Director: Oliver Nakache, Eric Toledano
Running time: 118min
I really wanted to love this film and came out of the screening merely liking it.
There’s an eye catching opening scene during a 1920s themed wedding reception.  After this the camera follows the wedding cake through the bowels of the hotel into the kitchen, where you see the ethnicity of the workers change with the quality of the jobs.  Cue the camera on Samba (Omar Sy) who is in the kitchens washing dishes.  Samba is Senegalese and has been in France for 10 years, illegally, and struggling to get ahead in low paid work. He is desperate to get working papers.  Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is an executive who’s had a breakdown and is doing volunteering work in a centre supporting immigrants.
This film had all the ingredients to be great, but suffered from slow pacing at the beginning.  After the opening scene there was about 30 min of story that I felt could have been halved and still had the desired effect. 
Samba hits its stride about halfway through.  There are some very funny and touching moments after this.  Gainsbourg and Sy are excellent and believable.  The development of the relationship between Samba and Alice is deftly handled. The issues surrounding illegal immigrants – not only their myriad personal situations, but the stress placed upon those who try to help them navigate the legal system is dealt with in a way that doesn’t “beat you over the head” with a political message.  It is intrinsically woven into the tale that shows you many facets of life and people’s hearts – honesty, cheating, love and sorrow.  The mixture of humour and poignancy make the film work.  You can make up your own mind about the politics.
Watch out for the Coca Cola scene, the Bob Marley scene, and when Alice recounts what she did when she had her “burn out.”  (The cinema erupted in cheers and laughter when she confesses what she did.)
Was it worth seeing? Yes. Will I buy the DVD? No.