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Cédric Ido La gravité Review


La Gravité | 2022 Toronto Intl. Film Festival Review

La Gravité | 2022 Toronto Intl. Film Festival Review

Planet Alignment: Ito Brings Sci-fi to banlieue Drama

A standard issue banlieue crime pic is mashed up with thinly developed sci-fi elements in The Gravity (La Gravité), a film that, despite its efforts to reinvent genre tropes, nevertheless feels utterly routine. A somewhat ambitious step forward for French-Burkinabé filmmaker Cédric Ido, the film dangles a handful of themes about loyalty and brotherhood among the underclass but never engages with them enough to have something meaningful to say.

Times may change, but the street code of the banlieue of Stains, France remains the same: stay true to your turf and never turn your back on the neighborhood. At least that was the case when Daniel (Max Gomis), his brother Joshua (Steve Tientcheu), and Christophe (Jean-Baptiste Anoumon) had the run of the place. But years have passed since the childhood accident that left Joshua paralyzed below the waist and Christophe’s brother dead. Returning home from a stretch in prison, Christophe is displeased to discover the drug trade is now managed by a new gang of youths who are self-styled rōnin (“samurais without masters”). The sobriquet applies to their collective approach to shared leadership, where each member is empowered to make their own decisions, knowing they will be backed up their crew. Their objectives are philanthropic too, with the rōnin using their earnings to improve their neighborhood, instead of squandering it on personal possessions.

Cédric Ido La gravité Review

None of this sits well with Christophe, an old-school dealer who is eager to reclaim his turf, even if he has to do it himself. He certainly won’t get any support from Daniel, a runner who is training for an important upcoming meet, while secretly plotting a move to Canada with his girlfriend and daughter. It’s news he hasn’t shared with Joshua, who is dangerously continuing his unsanctioned drug dealing in the margins of the rōnin’s turf. And while he might seem vulnerable conducting business from a wheelchair, he’s a gearhead who has tricked out his chair with secret features, all while working on a clandestine project in the basement of his building. But when he needs a helping hand, Daniel steps in, remaining torn between his duties as a brother and the opportunity of pursuing a straight life.

With a story established to lead to the inevitable and predictable collision course between the major players, Ido looks to bring a twist to your typical tale of the banlieue. The filmmaker paints the sky red, setting the story against the backdrop of a mysterious and unprecedented astronomical event, an alignment of the planets that is having unexpected consequences on the Earthbound. Except that the exact stakes of this event are vaguely defined, only occasionally, fleetingly, and largely insignificantly making its presence felt. The only thing it has really changed is scrambling the brains of the normally level-headed rōnin who have now “gone mystical” and launch a shocking plan to appease the gods of the galaxy.

In penning his screenplay, Ido appears more comfortable presenting the film’s jumble of ideas rather than probing them. The unwritten laws around leaving the banlieue are wrapped up both in issues of race and class which are treated superficially at best. Daniel’s indecision at where to put his allegiance is also undercooked, and isn’t helped by the partial sketch the relationship with his girlfriend receives.

As for the rōnin’s QAnon level reaction to the shifting planets above, it’s uncertain if it’s supposed to echo the voices of those on the conspiracy-addled fringes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, Ido doesn’t offer why these particular youth — introduced in the film as a smarter, more reliable upgrade than their predecessors — have fallen prey to occultism. From the screenplay to the production, this same sense of the perfunctory carries over. The film is fairly unremarkable visually, even with a cosmic event playing out in the background, and the performances are similarly reliable enough to push along the story, but the material doesn’t offer anyone in the cast the opportunity to shape it with any feeling or dimension.

“Gravity directs the course of everything in the universe,” the film declares, but it can hardly move anything in this picture. The Gravity is weighted down by a lack of ambition, with the story aching for its fantastical elements to redefine what we know about the banlieue and the systems that perpetually keep its residents in place.

Reviewed on September 13th at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival – Platform. 85 Mins.


Kevin Jagernauth is a Montreal-based film critic and writer. Kevin has written professionally about music and film for over 15 years, most prominently as Managing Editor of The Playlist, where he continues to contribute reviews, and he has recently joined The Film Verdict as a Contributing Critic. Kevin has attended and covered a wide range of festivals including Cannes, TIFF, Fantasia, Savannah, and more. On a consultative basis, Kevin provides script coverage for feature-length independent and international films. He is also the co-founder and co-programmer of Kopfkino, a monthly screening series of cult classics and contemporary favorites that ran from 2017-2020 in Montreal.

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