Omar Sharif (“Lawrence of Arabia”) makes a welcome
return to the big screen with a starring role in “Monsieur
Ibrahim,” a heartfelt coming-of-age story from
writer/director François Dupeyron. Joining him for his
return is newcomer Pierre Boulanger, who makes an impressive debut
as lead character Momo.

Film Reviews
Grandpa, are you sure we got enough cucumbers from the store? (Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)

As a cheerful and inquisitive young Jewish boy in early
’60s Paris, Momo is trapped with his clinically depressed
father, who does everything short of physically abusing him to
destroy his spirits. Momo’s exuberance is repressed by his
father’s need to turn off his American pop music. This
clearly establishes the father’s dominance over the radio,
comparing him unfavorably to his older brother. The apartment they
inhabit is unrelentingly dark and reinforces the hopelessness that
is his home life.

Encouraged by his father to save money, Momo decides to break
his piggybank and partake in the joys of his nearby red-light
district. Quickly gaining experience in the carnal underworld, he
becomes the neighborhood’s best customer and develops a
fairly hilarious prostitute addiction.

As he moves farther apart from his parent, he moves closer to
Sharif, a mysterious and sagacious shopkeeper who becomes a
surrogate father. Sharif exudes a type of omnipotent Eastern wisdom
without becoming a stereotype. The fact that he is a Muslim gives a
unique spin on the spirituality that is at the root of the
film.

The story of “Monsieur Ibrahim” is simple and
modest, one that makes no pretensions of its origins. The story of
a Muslim shopkeeper who befriends a Jewish boy is rife with
potential clichés, but through the intelligent use of the
soundtrack and the impressive cinematography, the film develops its
own voice. With its universalist approach to religion and
spirituality, “Ibrahim” offers a greater message than
most films.

Movie Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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