Writer-helmer Merzak Allouache follows his local comic hit “Chouchou” with the sweetly inconsequential “Bab el Web,” a melancholy comedy set in a disadvantaged district of Algiers that nearly makes up in heart what it lacks in narrative glue. Scattered, well-meaning pic incorporates sorrowful undercurrents: Young Algerians have limited prospects and sometimes drown their sorrow in drink or drugs. Opening week’s business for the mid-March release was decent.
Clever title designates a cybercafe in the poor Bab el Oued quarter, where Bouzid (Faudel, a gifted singer and occasional thesp) lives with his mother, sister and older brother Kamel (Samy Naceri). When Laurence (Julie Gayet), Bouzid’s cyber-pal in Paris, accepts his casual invitation to come for a visit, the broke but enterprising brothers move heaven and earth to show her a good time. But Laurence has a secret, unguessable connection with Algeria. Relationship between the two brothers rings true in the leisurely, nicely played tale. Widescreen location lensing shows off the natural beauty of Algiers, slums and all.