Refugees are as much a part of this century as they were of the last but they appear to be in greater number and certainly receive far greater publicity about their movements.
When viewed as a group they often evoke sympathy and pity but do any of us have the opportunity to really help? Cop out, sure but are the numbers so overwhelming that it becomes someone else’s problem and not yours?
Le Havre (2011) explores the attitude of a small, down-at-heel community when confronted with a child refugee, an African boy Idrissa (Blondin Miguel), who is assisted by a streetwise shoe shiner, Marcel (Andre Wilms).
Is it because Idrissa is a child that we see the illegal immigrants’ vulnerability as a whole and we want to help? Or is it merely the boiling down of a major problem to one individual that inspires humanity and caring?
While Marcel’s wife Arletty (Kati Outinen) is in hospital with a diagnosed terminal illness, he and his neighbours feed and hide Idrissa, while the old man dons his best suit (the sparsity of clothes on both male and female sides of the wardrobe really hit home to me) and tries to find the boy’s family at a prison in Calais.
Successfully negotiating this with a wise man’s cunning and directness, Marcel then Afinds he needs 3000 euros to pay for Idrissa to cross the English Channel and reunite with his mother.
The yin and yang of public attitude towards immigrants is reflected in the roles of an odious neighbour who keeps dobbing Marcel in and a stiff-looking police inspector Monet (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), who helps more than he is allowed.
All this is conducted within plenty of very dour humour and downright goodness on behalf of most of Marcel’s circle.
The cash is raised through a concert, arranged by the friends and starring the unusual Little Bob, a real life rocker (think Ronnie Corbett impersonating Danny La Rue in civvies).
Idrissa goes to the hospital to deliver a dress to Arletty and his plea for her to get well “because Mr Marx can’t look after himself” doesn’t fall on deaf ears.
If a movie makes you wonder what’s going to happen next and you care about who it’s going to happen to, then I feel it’s done its job. Le Havre does that and makes you laugh as well.