Europe’s problem of clandestine immigration from African countries is seen through fresh eyes in director Andre Techine’s Far Away. Breaking out of many stereotypes, the film shows not only the longing of poor Moroccans to find work in the north, but the fascination experienced by a French truck driver for the lands of the south. The story is divided into three days, beginning with truck-driver Serge (Stephane Rideau) departing from Spain in his modern tractor-trailer to carry cloth into Morocco and bring luxury garments out. In Tangiers he looks up his friend Said (Mohamed Hamaidi) and asks him to help smooth things over with his angry girlfriend, Sarah (Lubna Azabal), who runs the small hotel where Said works. The tangled but quite believable relationships of this odd trio form the film’s dynamic centre. Serge is tormented by an ambiguous arrangement he made in Spain to smuggle hashish into Europe. Tension builds as he meets with his Arab contact on a back road and is forced to hand over his keys. The next morning, the truck reappears and Serge has no idea what they’ve put inside. In another well-handled scene, Said exchanges his savings for black market Spanish pesetas in a sinister part of town. A breathless bicycle chase follows which, brief as it is, is as exciting as a Hollywood car chase. But despite the strong trafficking and immigration elements, Techine rightly avoids turning the film into an action movie; instead, he keeps the story in soft focus, flitting around the characters’ precarious relationships.
France-Spain, 2001. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 120 mins.

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