Ladj Ly’s latest film is a raw and gritty depiction of the power struggles and racial injustice taking place all over the world says Kevin Bourne in his Les Indésirables film review.
Set in an underprivileged suburb of Paris, Les Indésirables sees a family doctor Pierre (Alexis Manenti) suddenly rise to interim mayor following the unexpected death of the current mayor. With his heavy handed policies targeting immigrants, including a mandatory eviction order for an apartment building and shutting down an informal neighbourhood business, he finds himself in over his head. With elevators that haven’t worked in years and graffiti lining the walls, it’s a case of demolition by neglect, but will the new mayor’s policies backfire?
Haby (Anta Diaw), the young president of a public housing association, decides to run against Pierre in the upcoming mayoral election. Meanwhile, her best friend, played by Aristote Luyindula, looks to take matters into his own hands. Diaw does a good job of portraying the passionate yet steady community leader, while Luyindula approaches his character with unbridled passion.
Also, standing in their way, is Roger (Steve Tientcheu), Pierre’s “house negro” deputy mayor who initially had mayoral aspirations of his own before going along with Pierre’s anti-immigrant policies and quest for gentrification.
The film is a raw and gritty depiction of the power struggles and racial injustice taking place all over the world. It explores similar themes to Ladj Ly‘s TIFF and feature film debut Les Misérables a film about police violence and the poor treatment of young immigrants in Montfermeil in the eastern suburbs of France. It’s not only a battle for the soul the community, but an ideological battle between Pierre, the out of touch conservative bent on redeveloping the community, and the seemingly left-leaning activist, Haby. What we see in Les Indésirables is a cautionary story about what happens when leaders and those sworn to protect are out of touch with the very people they are supposed to serve.
While the film suffers from moments of being predictable and boring, and having a disappointingly abrupt ending, it is buoyed by dark and gritty cinematography from Julien Poupard (Les Misérables) and solid performances from Diaw and Luyindula. Not only are their characters tasked with saving their community; they may have very well saved the film.
Kevin Bourne is SHIFTER’s Toronto-based editor and Senior Entertainment Reporter focusing on Black music and film & TV. He was named one of 310 international voters for the 81st Golden Globe Awards by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and a Tomatometer-Approved Critic by Rotten Tomatoes.