Ruben Alves / France / 2013 / 90 min
There’s never a bad time to make a film about immigration, however serious, or in the case of début director Ruben Alves’s new comedy, light-hearted. At a time when jingoistic malaise drifts awkwardly down from atop the mainstream media, Alves breathes new life into the longing for home and celebrates the hard-working people who wish to find a sense of identity and belonging.
For over thirty years, Portuguese émigré couple Maria and José Ribeiro (Rita Blanco and Joaquim de Almeida) have toiled and troubled themselves for the more well-to-do in an exclusive district in opulent Paris. They catch a break upon learning of a great inheritance, but when word gets out, their “friends” can’t afford to let them leave and set about guilt-tripping them in every way possible.
There’s no huge satire or political anchor in Alves’s film, but rather a very well-made comedy of manners. Maria’s exaggerated sister Lourdes (Jacqueline Corado) enters and egresses as if in a bedroom farce, the clumsy social clashes between the Ribeiros and their snooty counterparts the Caillaux have a touch of Buñuel, but ultimately there’s a lasting thought that relationships are worth saving. It recalls the chic, carefree mood of Jean-Pierre Améris’s Romantics Anonymous and it’s easy to see why it garnered the most admissions at the Portuguese box office in 2013.