FATIMA. 2015. DIRECTED BY PHILIPPE FAUCON. STARRING SORIA ZEROUAL. SHOWN AS PART OF THE IRISH FILM INSTITUTE’S 2015 FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is a universal story gently told. It doesn’t beat us over the head with what it’s like to be a middle-aged single mother struggling to get by in a country that’s not her own and that doesn’t speak her mother tongue. Rather, it shows us all of the above in a way that’s not sensational and not over-intrusive and that leaves us feeling grateful for our own comparatively privileged existences.
At least, that’s how I personally felt after I left the cinema. The cinema which, incidentally, was pretty full for a Saturday afternoon and which contained easily as many blokes as chicks, despite the fact that there aren’t any car chases, explosions, gangsters or gadgets in the movie, haha.
Excuse the blatant stereotyping. FATIMA just strikes me more as a film that’s likely to appeal to women, seeing as it’s the story of a woman’s daily struggle, so I guess I was surprised to see so many chaps sitting around me, absorbed in the story. Maybe their wives or girlfriends dragged ’em along…!
You’ve already worked out that Fatima has her troubles. She’s a forty-four-year-old Moroccan immigrant living in a flat in France with her two daughters. Her husband, or should I say ex-husband, is living near them, only he has a new wife to occupy him. He visits his daughters all right, but it’s not clear whether or not he coughs up anything towards their upkeep. And as we all know, kids don’t come cheap…!
In any case, Fatima works as a cleaner and, as one of her daughters puts it, she leaves in the morning before it’s light and she doesn’t come home till it’s dark. We see her queuing up with a bunch of other women in the dark and then getting on a minibus. Naively, I thought they were going on a trip somewhere. I should have known by the tired, unenthusiastic faces and the lack of excited giggles that they weren’t going anywhere fun.
Fatima cleans offices, schools and private homes. Her employers don’t mistreat her but you get the impression that to them, she’s very much just ‘the help.’ Fatima never complains. She climbs stairs and scrubs and cleans and has hardly any leisure time because, to Fatima, that’s just the way it is. What else is she supposed to do? Her ex-hubby certainly isn’t much use.
I didn’t really like him, the ex-husband. He’s nice and smiley and all that, but I still didn’t warm to him. He gets to be Mr. Nice Guy, letting his youngest daughter drive his car for a laugh and stuff, while poor Fatima is forced to be the villain, laying down the law about homework and the importance of hard work and whatnot. I just don’t like when that happens. It’s not fair, haha.
Fatima’s two daughters are much more ‘westernised’ than their mum. Nesrine is a medical student with a weird boyfriend whom Fatima almost certainly wouldn’t approve of, and Souad is a cheeky brat who hangs around with boys, doesn’t do her homework and back-talks her mum and teachers.
Poor Fatima has her work cut out for her trying to keep up with them. She often doesn’t like what they wear, for one thing. She wears her traditional floor-length garb and full head-coverings when she goes out, but her daughters don’t. We see her telling Souad at one point that her chosen outfit for going out leaves too much flesh ‘exposed.’ The rebellious Souad replies with something rude and nonchalantly dismissive. Typical bloody-minded teenager…!
There’s a language barrier between Fatima and her daughters as well. They speak French and she speaks Arabic, and she struggles with their language while they in turn have difficulties with hers. When Fatima has a fall in work, however, and is forced to take several months off to recover, she starts to write down the stuff that she’s heretofore (that’s a word, right?) always found it hard to say to her offspring. Have new channels of communication been opened up? Only time will tell.
Low points for Fatima include trouble with some neighbouring women and the times when her daughters don’t seem to respect the hard work she does and Souad in particular refers to her as ‘a useless donkey’ and more or less a shoveller of other people’s shit.
Souad swears blind that she’ll never end up like her mother but she could do a lot worse than end up like Fatima, who at least has a terrific work ethic. And if Souad won’t do her homework, how does she expect to get anywhere in life? I guess she’ll just have to find stuff like that out the hard way like we all do.
Fatima’s highest point is definitely when her eldest daughter Nesrine passes her medical exams. Her joy literally knows no bounds. She’s as proud as a mother can possibly be. It’s lovely to witness. The whole film is, in fact, a perfectly-served little slice of someone’s actual daily life.
It may not have any car-chases or super-heroes in it, but it’s none the worse for it. And anyway, some super-heroes don’t wear tights and a cape. They’re just ordinary people going about the mundane and sometimes painful business of living everyday life. Most of them are right under our noses the whole time.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY