Film review: Almost Peaceful

Published: Thursday, March 10 2005 3:10 p.m. MST

Zabou Breitman, left, Lubna Azabal and Simon Abkarian are solid but not great in "Almost Peaceful," which suffers from a shallow plot.

Empire Pictures

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"Almost Peaceful" is almost interesting.

It's rare to see a movie about European Jews, circa the 1940s, that isn't about the Holocaust, much less one that isn't overwhelmingly downbeat or depressing.

As oddly refreshing as that is, the plotting in this 2002 French drama really isn't any more deep than your typical soap opera. In fact, that's basically all it is, albeit set in post-World War II France.

The film's title pretty much describes the state of Paris after end of World War II, where the main character, Albert (Simon Abkarian), finds himself. One of several Jewish survivors of the Nazi occupation, Albert is trying to rebuild his tailoring business with the help of his wife (Zabou Breitman), as well as other Holocaust survivors hoping to reclaim some semblance of their once-normal lives.

In fact, the kind-hearted Albert has taken on more employees, which has strained his finances and his relationship with his wife. Among those employees is a tailor, Joseph (Malik Zidi), who is fascinated by his new co-workers' survival stories.

In adapting Robert Bober's autobiographical novel, co-screenwriter/director Michel Deville seems to have left a lot out. Yet, there's no real narrative flow or progress. At times the film seems to be a collection of random scenes that have been strung together. And the melodramatic plotting contrivances certainly aren't enough to sustain a full-length feature.

As solid as most of the acting in the film is, ultimately it's nothing special. The cast does give it a game effort, however. Abkarian brings some depth to his rather underdeveloped character. But Breitman struggles to convince us of her character's unspoken passion with Albert's childhood friend, Charles (Denis Podalydes).

"Almost Peaceful" is not rated but would probably receive an R for crude sexual talk and use of sexual slang terms, some sexual contact, female nudity, some use of ethnic slurs, and some war violence (overheard in brief flashback scenes). Running time: 94 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com