Published Sep 09, 2011We all hope it never happens to us, but having to deal with an act of violence upon your home is never predictable and always traumatic. The Snows of Kilimanjaro, the latest offering from French art house standby Robert Guédiguian (The Army of Crime), is about when bad things happen to good people. Specifically a pair of couples and long-time friends, Michel and Marie-Claire (Jean-Pierre Darroussin and Ariane Ascaride) and Raoul and Denise (Gérard Meylan and Marilyne Canto), whose evening bridge game is interrupted by home invasion and robbery.
The timing is awful, as the recently retired Michel has stashed away a pile of cash presented to him by his former co-workers for an African safari ― easy come, easy go. Through happenstance, Michel is able to track down his assailant, a former co-worker named Christophe (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet), and sets about righting wrongs, which lands Christophe in jail.
Of course, this isn't a simple case of black-and-white, right-and-wrong, good-and-bad. Michel didn't simply retire; he was the shop steward at the shipping company he worked for and essentially threw himself on his sword by volunteering to be laid off, while Christophe isn't simply a petty thug, but a desperate man in need of money to support his two pre-adolescent brothers. After sending Christopher to jail, both Michel and Marie-Claire begin to infiltrate his life, becoming de facto guardians to his younger brothers.
The jaded will chide The Snows of Kilimanjaro for being a film about assuaging white liberal guilt, a fair accusation, to be sure (this is the anti-Funny Games), but it's also a pretty narrow-minded way of viewing this film, and life in general.
The Snows of Kilimanjaro is about dealing with pain, trauma and, ultimately, forgiveness. It is a film that sees the good in everyone and succeeds as a heart-warming crowd-pleaser without being needlessly manipulative.
That said, this is also a movie set in a sort of fantasy world in which forgiveness is easy to come by and it's difficult not to begrudge the way it ends as a simple concession to its aforementioned white liberal target audience, despite the charity it engenders along the way with its realistically human and genuinely affecting scenario.
In the end it feels like a big warm hug, but maybe one that lasts a bit too long. (Mongrel Media)