I loved this film, after almost choosing not to watch it after reading the summary in the TV guide. It sounds like a fairly bleak story of a family in crisis. And there's no denying the bleak elements. When I looked up 17 Rue Bleue on IMDb, I was a little disappointed, but not really surprised, to see generally moderate ratings from only a handful of viewers -- and no written reviews. Understandably it is not a film that will necessarily appeal to the "masses". It features a gritty realism, and it shuns spectacular events and fantastic, uplifting resolutions. But it contains such great honesty, real warmth, and an enduring sense of hope for the future that I can strongly recommend it to anyone prepared for something that explores the inner core of family bonds and the extremes of reaction to grief and loss. Central to my admiration for this film were the outstanding performances by Lysiane Meis as the mother, and Abdel Halis and Aimen Ben Ahmed as her adolescent sons.
Director Chad Chenouga (portrayed by Abdel Halis in the film) must be congratulated for telling the story of his mother in such a finely balanced way. There is abundant warmth, but no sugar-coating of the hell-hole of his youth. Meis' performance as Adda (his mother) is truly superb -- heartbreaking in it's own right, but also in the sense that it has perhaps gone essentially unseen and unrecognized (if IMDb is any guide) as comparable to the achievements of any great actress in any film in the past five years. That's a big claim for someone who watches as many films as I do from all over the world, but this is a role that takes Lysiane from doting, loving mother to guilt-ridden sibling to drug-induced delusional behaviour to desperation and depression (without giving away the why's and wherefores of the plot)... and she handles it all with great authenticity. Similarly, the rivalry and the fights between the boys is nothing short of brilliant. Credit to the actors and the director for bringing the perspective of young teens literally kicking and screaming into such vivid focus! Perhaps only those of us who had older brothers and mothers dealing with the loss of a partner can fully appreciate the richness of this film, but I hope (and really believe) that the hidden message in the palm of Chad's (the older brother's) hand can be appreciated by a much wider audience. Who knows who reads IMDb reviews of non-mainstream, non-US movies... but I just had to share my thoughts on this gem. Thanks!
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