Le Havre (2011)

The formation of relationships is an enduring essential of survival. The acquisition of food, shelter, monetary gain, and a sense of belonging all emerge from the bonds that are forged throughout an individual’s lifetime. Much is to be gained from interconnectedness, but much is also to be given. Compassion and empathy often emerges when others are in need, and goodhearted humans may donate funds or time to particular causes. Others may delve deeper, creating friendships with those needing assistance and selflessly risking their own safety for others’ benefit. This is the case in the marvelous 2011 film “Le Havre” directed by Aki Kaurismaki.

Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms) is a hard-working former artist turned sometimes shunned shoeshiner canvassing the streets of the idyllic coastal French town of Le Havre on a daily basis. Apart from work, he values time spent at the local bar and with his beloved wife, Arletty (Kati Outinen) and sweet dog, Laika. Marcel’s routine is dramatically interrupted one day upon meeting a young African boy named Idrissa Saleh (Blondin Miguel). He has escaped from a discovered cargo container carrying his family from Gabon. While among the “working poor”, Marcel and his friends instinctively aim to protect the boy from authorities, recognizing his right as a human to feel safe and loved. These altruistic actions all occur while his wife is hospitalized with a terminal illness.

“Le Havre” creates a masterful blend of comedy and pathos, emulating lightheartedness while exploring complex emotional and societal issues. It demonstrates all that is positive in humanity – the creation of and strengthening of community, loyalty, and hope. As well, the topic of illegal immigration is a central component of the film. This is quite pertinent to the current and impending American political climate. It must be understood that those who immigrate embark on this exciting yet frightening journey for a multitude of reasons. For example, they may be fleeing a war-torn country, yearning to provide a life filled with opportunities for loved ones. They are extremely deserving of a chance to contribute to society. This viewpoint was evidently exhibited in this film, and it is quite important that the global community assemble to address hardship amongst this group of people who have endured hardships most have not and should never experience in their lifetimes.

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I do not own the above image.

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