“A problem child is a child with problems”
In the depths of the quarantine, a French comedy seemed like an appropriate choice for a slow Friday night. With its belly-poking humour, the trailer for Netflix’s Bad Seeds [original title: Mauvaises herbes] painted it out to be a deliciously victorious find. Little did I know it would keep replaying behind my lids as I slid into bed that night.
The 2018 French comedy-drama was written and directed by Kheiron [All Three of Us, upcoming Brutus VS Cesar], who also happens to play the film’s leading role. Waël, a scam artist with a troubled past, finds himself entertaining a group of scowling teenagers in a youth center. His investment in their lives shifts from shallow to yawn-wide as his gut starts bubbling with sympathy. Throughout it all, he is aided by his partner in crime Monique (Catherine Deneuve), who sees to it that he doesn’t stray too far from the path of moderate righteousness.
As heart-warming as the premise of the story sounded at first, it echoed the witty BBC series Bad Education in its portrayal of a grown man befriending a group of misbehaving teens. However, that comparison quickly halted somewhere in the recesses of my mind. The pulsating colours and angled shots gradually peel layers off the film’s surface, revealing a heart-tugging story about an orphan’s journey from foreign suburbs to the heart of France. The film’s sparkling humour is mixed with constantly fizzling conflict, capturing the bittersweet complexity of human connection.
Perhaps the most thrilling ingredient of Kheiron’s storytelling is his ability to dip in and out of harrowing experiences within a blink, leaving us to reel back from the blow. He keeps us on our toes, never knowing when a chuckle might slip into a gruffer sound. Much like the 2011 masterpiece The Intouchables, the film traces the partition between drama and comedy, fusing vulnerability with unyielding inner strength.