DRAMA; 1hr 43min (French and Arabic with subtitles)
STARRING: Viggo Mortensen, Reda Kateb
True grit: Kateb (left) and Mortensen
Schoolteacher Daru (The Road ’s Mortensen, fluent in French) lives and works in orderly solitude in the profound and barren isolation of the Algerian High Plateau. It’s 1954 and Daru’s carefully tended peace is fractured when he becomes caught up in Algeria’s battle for independence from France. Against his will, he is compelled to escort a self-effacing Algerian (Kateb as Mohamed), accused of killing his cousin, across the stark expanse of the Atlas Mountains to what will surely be Mohamed’s execution in the name of cursory justice.
Filmmaker David Oelhoffen’s adaptation of the 1957 Albert Camus short story “The Guest” (“L'Hôte”) makes much of the punishing landscape through which the men resignedly plod — in time-honoured Wild West tradition, bitter elements shape souls. But this is a journey of mutual understanding as well, its obstacles of capture and divided loyalties a precarious bridge to an acceptance by Daru and Mohamed of their unexpected commonality. As the weaver who pulls these threads together, Mortensen’s introspective Daru seems most centred when expressively silent. In the whirlpool of the dispossessed, his one true home is himself.