A powerless particular person is to be crushed without pity,” sneers one of many many villainous establishment figures in A Mile in My Shoes, a theme which author-director Said Khallaf then proceeds for instance in the most thumpingly apparent terms. Again and repeatedly. Set in contemporary Casablanca, Morocco’s official entry within the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film is a heavy-handed social drama about an impoverished petty criminal struggling to be a great man in a nasty world.
The Canada-based mostly Khallaf’s scathing portrait of his homeland’s rotten, unequal system is low on psychological depth or dramatic originality. But it does boast strong performances and a glossy technical polish, plus some unorthodox stylistic prospers that elevate it above the usual grammar of social realism. A Mile in My Shoes has already picked up a handful of prizes on the international movie pageant circuit, which is where overseas audiences are almost definitely to catch it in future.
Our anti-hero is Said (Amine Ennaji), a serial offender fingered because the chief suspect following a late-night time sexual assault on Maryam (Meryam Bakouche), wife of high-ranking police officer Hassan (Mohamed Ayad). We already know Said is a ruthless avenue hoodlum together with his own mini-crew of muggers and burglars, but is he able to a diabolical crime like rape? Or have the police just rounded up the standard suspects? This is Casablanca, in spite of everything.
Intercutting the principle plotline with flashbacks, Khallaf maps out Said’s journey from weak baby to vengeful, volatile grownup. Steps alongside the best way embrace family tragedy, an abusive stepfather, a bruising early initiation into teenage gangs, a failed bid at holding down authentic jobs with creepy bosses, an inevitable spell in prison, and a brutal feud with a bestial crime lord named Namroud (Othmane Lghafy).
But Said is no irredeemable monster. Though he could also be a violent hothead in public, in non-public he’s an emotionally scarred orphan who remains obsessively attached to his childhood toys. He can be tender and protecting towards his elderly landlady Aunty (Rawia) and his lifelong companion in crime, Mostafa (Mohamed Hmimsa). After romance blossoms with his pretty neighbor Hanane (Sanaa Bahaj), he even dreams of lastly proving himself as a loyal husband and father. But his long report of crimes and misdemeanors keeps sabotaging his good intentions.
A Mile in My Shoes will not be a nuanced piece of storytelling. Khallaf masses the dice in each scene, repeatedly painting Said as a misunderstood sufferer of a merciless, nakedly unjust society. Bizarrely, nearly each male nemesis he confronts throughout his life is a sexually ambivalent predator who tries to rape him. Maybe male-on-male sexual assault is a major social downside in Morocco, however this recurring motif quickly begins to really feel like an unsavory personal fixation. If viewers are in any doubt where our sympathies are being directed, Mohamed Oussama’s syrupy, wheedling, over-intrusive rating serves as a large musical signpost. When the finale comes, even Said’s police interrogator is weeping for this lost little boy. Subtle as a Donald Trump speech.
That stated, Khallaf’s heart-tugging drama has some saving graces. Chief amongst them is Ennaji’s magnetic display presence, his performance a examine in wounded pleasure and unvocalized rage, his brooding jolie-laide good appears to be like strongly reminiscent of Benicio Del Toro at occasions. Also impressive are the non-naturalistic flashback vignettes, which recreate Said’s childhood on a starkly lit stage in the mannered, minimalist fashion of classical Greek tragedy. These formal digressions recommend Khallaf has something more heightened in thoughts than straight realism, which at the very least helps explain the melodramatic tone elsewhere. An fascinating film, for all its flaws, though by the top it appears like we’ve got walked 100 miles in Said’s shoes, not just one.
Production company: OMA Productions
Cast: Amine Ennaji, Noufissa Benchehida, Sanaa Bahaj, Rawia, Mohamed Hmimsa, Othmane Lghafy, Mohamed Ayad, Meryam Bakouche
Director, screenwriter, editor: Said Khallaf
Producers: Said Khallaf, Said Rihane
Cinematographer: Ali Benjelloun
Music: Mohamed Oussama
No rating, one hundred ten minutes