A Few Days of Respite

Quelques jour de répit

Date: Monday, 10/17/2011
Time: 9:00 pm

Venue: West End

Tickets: $12 - [Buy Tickets]

Type: Feature presentation
Language: French with English subtitles

Metro Weekly Rating:
starstar (2 out of 5)

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Review by Chris Heller

A FEW DAYS of Respite asks a lot from its audience. The bones-bare script strains to fill silence with emotional impact. The plot shrugs along, second-by-second, with just enough narrative momentum to keep going. Director Amor Hakkar's camera does nothing but linger. And all the while, characters keep staring at each other, nondescript and silent. It shoots for grandeur, but lands in pretension.

Set in Europe, this French-language drama follows Mohsen (Hakkar) and Hassan (Samir Guesmi), a gay Iranian couple who flee to Paris in order to live away from the threat of death sentences. After making their way into France, Mohsen finds work as a handyman in a small town, but his employer, an older woman named Yolande (Marina Vlady), tries to seduce him. Her blatant scheming, largely unbeknownst to either man, leads to an inevitable conflict -- will Mohsen choose a stable job and companion, or run away to Paris with Hassan?

While the premise is catching enough, Hakkar just doesn't do anything to further A Few Days of Respite past that initial interest. He deploys minimalism to a fault, not explaining the depth of Mohsen and Hassan's relationship, or, more frustratingly, how it all figures in the end. Sure, there are a few bright spots buried underneath -- Hakkar presents worthy questions about love, happiness and sacrifice -- but Respite settles as dour and melodramatic when it could have been unyielding and sentimental.

A story like this one deserves more than a feather's touch; it should be adamant and honest and troubling. But it's not -- the fault lies in what was left out, untold.

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More information

Film Links:

Festival Venue:

West End Cinema
23rd Street NW
Washington, DC
(202) 419-3456

Tickets:

For individual tickets and festival passes, visit www.reelaffirmations.org. Standard Festival Passes are $150 and Six Pack Passes are $60. Both allow for entry to any of the films except special events and opening and closing nights. Tickets may be purchased online, at the box offices, or at Universal Gear (1529 14th Street NW, WDC).

For more information, pick up a copy of the Reel Affirmations 20 program guide, or visit www.reelaffirmations.org, or call 202-349-7358.

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