Though I was slightly delayed by a round of convention crud, I am back from Fantastic Fest! We saw over a dozen movies over the back half of the convention, and almost all of them were, well…fantastic. I hope to write reviews of everything we saw over the next couple of weeks, with as few spoilers as is humanly possible. Today we’ll start with the first movie we saw at the festival, which ended up being in my top three overall!
Plot-wise, Romain Gavras’ Le Monde es à Toi (The World is Yours) is a heist movie, first and foremost. The story follows a mid-level drug dealer named Fàres (played by Karim Leklou with an air of long-suffering misery), a diffident man with the eyes of a kicked puppy and a fundamentally good heart. He sells hash for his boss Poutine (played with hookah-addled histrionics by Sofian Khammes), he slips scratch tickets into every baggie of drugs to prop up flagging sales, and dreams of making enough money to cash out of the drug game and pursue his real dream; to be the franchise holder for Mr. Freezee popsicles in North Africa, to buy a house with a little swimming pool, settle down, get married, and live a quiet life selling frozen novelties.
But when Fàres’s safe-cracking, compulsive gambling mother Danny (played by the legendary Isabelle Adjani) loses his entire savings on a poker game, the kind-hearted dealer is forced to take on a dangerous drug buy in Spain on behalf of his boss. He is accompanied by his best friend Henri (Vincent Cassel, one of my favorite French actors of all time), a mumbling, philosophical ex-convict who steals every scene; his love interest, a small-time thief and con artist named Lamya (Oulaya Oumamra), and two of Poutine’s bumbling henchmen, both of whom are named Mohamed. When the deal goes sideways in tragicomic fashion, Fàres is forced to call in his mother, who sets him on a path that will either make him rich, or get him killed.
Gavras’ background in directing stylish music videos for artists like hip-hop queen M.I.A. shows through in every shot of the movie – he has an eye for composing scenes of flashy excess, full of designer clothes, billowing clouds of hash smoke, jewelry and fast cars, all punctuated by and set to impeccably chosen music. He even manages to use Africa’s “Toto” to a good end, which should merit some sort of recognition on its own.
And while he was blessed with a hell of a cast, Gavras deserves credit for making all of their characters shine without ever overshadowing poor Fàres in his search for happiness – in fact, he manages to give us a glimpse into all of his protagonists’ dreams, and one finds oneself rooting for all of them to get what they deserve, one way or another. This is probably the movie’s biggest strength – every character in the movie feels realized and intriguing, and left me wishing they’d had more screen time. For an ensemble piece like this, that’s no mean feat at all.
If you like Soderbergh-esque capers full of oddball characters, do yourself a favor and get your hands on The World is Yours, you won’t regret it.
Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars