35 Shots Of Rum

Posted on: 21 July 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Laurence Green reviews Claire Denis’ new film 35 Shots Of Rum.

A touching study of family ties is provided by Claire Denis in her new film 35 Shots of Rum (Curzon Soho, Gate Notting Hill and other selected cinemas).

Lionel is a middle-aged train driver and has been raising his student daughter alone since the untimely death of her mother.  They live together in a grey apartment building in a drab suburb of Paris with two neighbours who frequently intrude, one has romantic designs on the father, the other has eyes for the young daughter.  Though the retirement of a fellow train driver provides a fleeting distraction, Lionel begins to realise that time is passing by and he and his daughter may have to go separate ways.

This film has its origins in the childhood stories that Denis heard about her Brazilian grandfather and while not much happens dramatically, you’ll find by the end you’ve grown to know and empathise with the characters and the dilemmas they face.  As an exploration of family, friendship, loneliness and loss, the film has an honesty and intimacy that makes it truly winning – although almost all the characters are black racism never rears its ugly head – while the excellent photography gives the picture a poetic feel.

But it is the engaging performances by Alex Descas and the delicious Mati Diop as the father and daughter respectively that really strike an emotional chord and make this a film you will not forget in a hurry!

The film was shown to much acclaim at the 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival and the 2008 Venice International Film Festival.

By Laurence Green

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