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A young girl trying to escape the financial fate her mother has accepted gets involved with a local hoodlum in order to make money.
Trigger Warning(s): Attempted Rape
Review (with Spoilers)
If there is one reason to love Netflix it is because it gives you access to films like these in the comfort of your own home. No need to venture to your closest city and pay $13+. You can cry, laugh, yell at the screen, and not worry about someone else’s watching experience while doing so. With all that said, let’s talk about Divines.
Characters & Story
Dounia (Oulaya Amamra)
When you grow up in a Roma camp with a mom who is not only embarrassing but seems to lack maturity, it makes your desire for a better life skyrocket. Something past being a simple receptionist, but making big money, millions even. That is Dounia’s dream and she plans on bringing best friend Maimouna (Déborah Lukumuena) right with her. Though, to get to those heights, they need to work with Rebecca (Jisca Kalvanda) who is a local hoodlum who seemingly runs a big part of their estate’s dope dealings.
But, along the way to rising up through the ranks, so comes Djigui (Kevin Mischel). A dancer who originally is just someone Dounia, with Maimouna, watch from the rafters. However, after a spitting contest, and him chasing Dounia, so begins something more than either expected.
However, with a life of crime and this young man going places, which life will Dounia choose? Which life will be available to her and ultimately, can her dreams come true despite all that she has done?
It isn’t clear when Dounia and Maimouna’s friendship started, but similar to Girlhood, it is beautiful to watch two girls empower each other, be ride or die for one another, and have this sisterhood like bond which is enviable. For while often it seemed Maimouna was just along for the ride, she never fell prey to just being the big black best friend. For whether it was showing us her parents, us understanding how deeply she believed in her faith and how that influenced her, she wasn’t made out to be shallow.
A Cute Love Affair
Though certainly not a huge part of the film, it was hard to not swoon a bit when it came to Dounia and Djigui’s relationship. For while Amamra’s youthfulness made you question if Djigui was too old for her, you can’t help but lose yourself in the type of romance you could see being its own movie. For their scenes dancing together and you being able to tell he is definitely her first love, oh my god it makes you want to squeal.
The Desire For More
What is always necessary, but not always done, is understanding the motive and what drives the characters. With this film, it is clear from Dounia to Samir (Yasin Houicha) and everyone in between. For whether it is Maimouna sticking with Dounia because she makes her feel wanted, beautiful and free; Samir desiring Rebecca’s approval for she calls him her brother and it makes him feel good; or Djigui wanting to dance because of the feeling it gives him, everyone’s motives are clear.
The one especially clear though is Dounia who between seeing her mother, a lecture from her teacher, and the environment she grows up in, sees crime and drugs as the easiest way to stability and money. So whether it is robbing someone to prove herself, figuring out how to drive a scooter to be more useful, or even how to go from a plain jane to a seductress, she figures out a way and seeing her do so is something to watch.
Leading to the last bit of praise required: That for the lead Ms. Amamra. To me she is unknown and with only a handful of films before this, mostly shorts, for her to command you so well in one of her first big outings is something. I mean, she to me is the meaning of “There is strength in vulnerability” and through her eyes, you can see fear and uncertainty just as much as she can do as Tyra Banks once spoke of, in terms of smiling with your eyes.
But it isn’t just all physical, in a way it is mental too. There are many a beautiful actress out there but how many can get a reaction out of you with their clothes on? Amamra does that for whether it is hoping love will be true with Djigui, that she doesn’t end up dead working for Rebecca, and that Maimouna doesn’t abandon her when she needs her most, she gets you so emotionally invested.
A Cheap & Rushed Ending
Thus making me wonder why the ending that was done was chosen? I get it is supposed to represent her reaping what she sows, but it left me so frustrated. For one, it seemed like a climax and then something was done with a character to get a cheap and quick reaction out of you. Which, considering all that preceded, honestly the ending seemed like the writers either didn’t want you to have closure or decided to end things there for otherwise this movie would be ridiculously long.
Overall: Worth Seeing
I hope, similar to Lea Seydoux, this introduction to Oulaya Amamra is her invitation to the world stage. For there is this versatility to her that not many young actresses have anymore for, so it seems, they are only cast due to having pretty faces and marketable bodies. And while she may have been the main focus of my praise, overall the cast each bring something to the film where while they are largely in support of her, you can’t say a single negative thing about them. Well, besides their part in the ending.