Review: A Season In France

After a tragedy in his personal life, an African teacher flees his violent country for France, where he falls in love with a local woman who works as a florist.

A Season in France is a quietly devastating feature written and directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, following on from his 2016 documentary Hissein Habré, une tragédie tchadienne.

The grim reality of this story is that it plays out globally every day. The people that have been displaced by war are simply trying to piece together a life. It’s a quiet life that most people are seeking. A safe space that will offer enough stability in which to process their traumas. The landscape in which A Season in France takes place is as regular and mundane as it comes. As Abbas (Eriq Ebouaney) and Carole (Sandrine Bonnaire) share a cigarette break at their market job the frame contains smashed glass, bins, boxes, and a dirty shop awning. This is not the romantic France of Hollywood, this is normal, everyday, working France.

A Season In France
A Season In France

Abbas’s children Asma and Yacine are pitched perfectly – riding the waves of emotion brought on by fear, uncertainty and boredom, yet ultimately more stable than their father, who is overwhelmed by grief and suffering the symptoms of PTSD.

The family is not able to find a permanent home in France, so they begin to explore ideas. Conflicting feelings are stirred as the family unfolds a world map. The place names plucked out have an exciting sound to the children. Their ideas of what life would look like are hopeful, despite the hardships they have faced. To them the world is full of possibilities. Their father, meanwhile, retreats into himself. No doubt overwhelmed by the thought of the many barriers that face them; reluctant to make promises that he cannot keep.

A Season in France is unflinching and truthful. The cruel way in which developed nations treat the dispossessed is all too familiar, both today and throughout history. Abbas references the Europe of 1938 and puts it in such simple, human terms: “It’s not nice feeling undesirable”. A more hopeful account of asylum seekers is found in the Karim Aïnouz documentary Central Airport THF (2018), but both are, ultimately, about heartbreak.

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Esme Betamax is a writer and illustrator. Often found in the Cube Microplex. Favourites include: I ♡ Huckabees, Where the Buffalo Roam, Harold & Maude, Being John Malkovich and In the Shadow of the Moon.