Published Mar 01, 2004Omar Sharif as the grey-haired, hunched up Monsieur Ibrahim is a stark reminder that everyone ages. Best known for his work in Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago and Funny Girl, putting aside the notion of Sharif as an epic movie star is imperative for the believability of Sharif as a poor French convenience store owner.
Monsieur Ibrahim is really Moise's story. Moise (Pierre Boulanger), but called Momo, is a young Jewish boy living alone in poverty with his bitter father after his mother abandons them. They live in a ratty apartment in a rough part of Paris in the '60s, and it is Momo's job to keep up the place. Momo's adult responsibilities making meals and cleaning house do nothing to stifle his adolescent sexual curiosity. His one splurge is on the benevolent prostitutes that live across the road from him. When money gets tight, he pockets groceries from the store on the street run by "the Arab." Monsieur Ibrahim (Omar Sharif), an elder Muslim man, insists to Momo one day that he "is not an Arab" and initiates an unlikely friendship between the two.
The fact that this movie is based on a book by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt makes sense. There is an underlying feeling when watching this film that there is more to this story more detail, more colour and more words. Two things that may have come across better in the book: Ibrahim and Momo's odd but charming relationship and the cut-to-the-chase ending. Director Francois Dupeyron said he wants viewers to "feel alive, happy, joyful," but it's difficult to feel these emotions with the depressive atmosphere and the run of incredible bad luck that besets this poor kid. Boulanger and Sharif do well in their roles, and the story is interesting, but don't expect to feel like skipping when you leave the theatre. (Mongrel Media)