The Secret of the Grain (‘La Graine et le Mulet’) (‘Couscous’)

DRAMA; 2hr 28min (French with subtitles)

STARRING: Habib Boufares, Hafsia Herzi

The Glums: Herzi and Boufares

It takes stubborn faith to square off against the system. Slimane (Boufares) is a 61-year-old Arab boatyard worker in a south-eastern France fishing port, who after 35 years is dispensed with by an uncaring management. Divorced and battling, he lives in a cramped room of an unremarkable hotel owned and run by his girlfriend, Latifa (Hatika Karaoui), and her forthright daughter, Rym (Herzi). In fact, unremarkable seems to sum Slimane up — quiet to the point of dour, he is one of life’s invisible men. But by no means in spirit: Slimane is intent on opening a restaurant with the fish couscous of his ex-wife (Bouraouia Marzouk) as the star dish. Officialdom is sceptical. Latifa is threatened. Slimane doesn’t care: he has a legacy to create.


Two and a half hours is an awful lot of legacy. Actual restaurants could open and close while director Abdellatif Kechiche dwells with naturalistic fervour on the most mundane exchanges. His MO is vérité to a fault but only the most hard-boiled cynic could fail to end up in Slimane’s corner.