Before becoming Abdellatif Kechiche’s favorite actress, Hafsia Herzi was the daughter of a cleaning lady. With “Bonne Mère”, she pays tribute to the brave mother without a man whom he raised in the northern districts of Marseille. This is also where the director returned to shoot this very true story, both touching and universal, which will be released on Wednesday 21 July in theaters in France.
The first image continues to haunt us long after the film: a middle-aged woman, both tender and strong, looking at the horizon through the window of her HLM building in the northern districts of Marseille. Between dream and reflection and with a smile, this mother and grandmother in her family appear as the good mother (Basilica Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, the editor’s remark) reigned for centuries over the fate of Marseille.
With Bonne Mère, Hafsia Herzi, a native of Marseilles, pays tribute to both her own mother and the neighborhood where she grew up, the northern districts. A successful double portrait, embodied in the film by Nora (Halima Benhamed, “an instant love at first sight”) who struggles to make her large, very heterogeneous family exist and live. His daughter is tired of killing herself at odd jobs and will try her luck in prostitution and try to reverse the reports of submission. Her youngest son spends his time acquiring, showing off and playing video games. There is the eldest son, currently in prison, for whom Nora lifts mountains to get him out. Luckily for her, there are also her grandchildren who go to great lengths to succeed in school and stay upright in life.
Beauty through kindness
Hafsia Herzi draws Nora as a heroine who defies her fate and obstacles in everyday life in this area with its population abandoned by the public authorities. Nora embodies love through her feelings, beauty through her kindness and sacrifice through her unchanging sense of solidarity. And she gets there, even though she’s literally sitting on her teeth. She has been in pain for several months and can no longer eat properly, but she would rather pay the lawyer who promised to get her son out of jail than put the money in the dentist’s bank account.
Nothing makes Nora resign. Is the elevator broken again? She goes up the five floors without complaining, as she holds her breath to prepare lunch. The neighborhood is more and more dilapidated and neglected … She crosses with honesty and justice the areas of thugs and drug dealers. His salary as an airplane cleaner at the airport is not enough to live on? So she continues after her work with another job that gives heart and joy to Liliane, an older person.
The inner life of a heroine
Hafsia Herzi has found the right recipe and the right way to handle the camera to carefully and decisively share the inner life of her heroine and bring the northern districts of Marseille to the screen. We feel that the director grew up right in front of the building where she chose to shoot this story that no one else has told her at the cinema. Humble, humble, with intermediate clues, here a rooster screams, where a tattoo, she gives body to the characters, to the apartments, to the small drug and prostitution networks, to the streets and to rap, between pride and departure, between hope and submission, between poetry and prison, between district poverty and the heart.
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