The Other Shore” is an emotionally complex portrait of colonial and personal heritage as observed in two men who have been buffeted by history but only now acknowledge the strength of its undertow. In her first fiction outing after a number of distinguished documentaries, Dominique Cabrera fashions a nuanced and gutsy look at lives in transition that sidesteps stereotyping and allows its lead thesps to shine.
In the summer of 1994, Georges Montero (veteran Claude Brasseur), a pied noir (Frenchman born and raised in North Africa) sets foot in France for the first time to undergo a cataract operation in Paris. The young eye surgeon who treats him, Tarek Timzert (popular young actor Roschdy Zem), is of North African heritage but considers himself French; he doesn’t speak Arabic and has never visited the land of his ancestors.
Georges, who owns an olive processing plant in Oran and adores the leisurely rhythms of his life in Algeria, intends to head straight home. But the Paris area is home to key relatives and friends who fled for their lives in 1962 when Algeria declared its independence — Georges’ mother (Marthe Villalonga), sister (Antoinette Moya) and first love (Catherine Hiegel), all adrift or embittered from having the place they considered home turn against them in bloody revolt.
Georges is convinced he can continue to live in Algeria, even though fundamentalists are slaughtering artists and intellectuals at a horrifying pace. But it turns out that Georges’ friend Belka (Algerian theater director Agoumi), who has already resettled in Paris, has arranged behind his back for an Algerian civil servant to acquire the olive concern.
As Georges wrestles with the tug of blood and romantic ties, Tarek realizes the life of Gallic affluence he’s built for himself runs counter to his historic roots. The two men — one nearing retirement, the other just starting out in life — form a mutually supportive bond.
Thesps are excellent across the board, with special praise for Brasseur’s unflinching and full-blooded perf. His reunion and love scenes with Hiegel exude a confidently over-the-hill masculinity rarely seen onscreen.
Lensing features plenty of hand-held work to accentuate the claustrophobic atmosphere as protagonists reel from heated family spats and politically motivated barroom brawls. While not always a perfect fit for the action, the musical score doesn’t intrude or detract.
Pic assumes French viewers are up to speed on the thorny legacy of Gallic intervention in North Africa. For foreign sales, an introductory recap would be helpful.