Samba (Omar Sy) and Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg) are two people on the edge. Samba, an illegal immigrant whose spent the past decade in France, lives with the perpetual threat of deportation, while Alice, his caseworker, lives with a mental illness that recently culminated in a breakdown which put her career in jeopardy. Each of them carries themselves with a sense of fragility and a kind of adolescent energy – Samba’s childish exuberance versus Alice’s social insecurities. It makes sense they’d be drawn together. They fit together.
Unfortunately, the film that tells their story – Samba from Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, directors of The Intouchables – doesn’t fit together quite so well. It tries to balance these peoples’ everyday anxieties with breezy, lightweight comedy, and rarely do the two halves intermesh. Samba is like watching a film that consists of one part immigrant drama, two parts crowd-pleasing comedy rather than a coherent package. There’s still plenty to like here – Gainsbourg is good, as always, while Sy is completely charismatic – but the film’s potential is truly wasted in its final act. A seemingly superfluous subplot resurfaces in a bit of narrative contrivance that feels utterly false, all to give audiences an implausibly happy ending.