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Life Suits Me Well (La vie me va bien)

A touching portrait of mental deterioration and its effect on family in 1990s Morocco. Live from the Tallinn Film Festival!


Fouad (Samir Guesmi) is an irrepressibly cheery father, a dedicated husband and a valued member of his community. It’s the mid-90s and he works fixing the phone lines in a seaside town in Morocco as well as teaching Spanish to older people. Played by veteran French actor Guesmi with broad appeal and warmth, he radiates kindness to almost anyone he meets.

Then one day, when he is teaching a class the verb “to love” he forgets how to say “she loves.” His wife Rita (Lubna Azabal), waiting at the door, finishes it for him. It’s a neat summary of the movie’s main theme, which shows how loving someone changes when they are suffering from an debilitating mental condition. Sometimes we just don’t have the words.

The title of the film, Life Suits Me Well, sums up its own approach to life’s difficulties; finding the humanity despite the inhumanity that such a break in mental illness can bring. At the centre of the story is Ismaïl (Sayyid El Alami), a young teenager who throws up from drinking beer for the first time. Suddenly thrust into adulthood, it is up to him to become more responsible and help provide for the family. The final result is a touching, well-made drama about the bonds of family and staying strong in dreadful circumstances.

Everyone seems to be learning a language in the film. In addition to already knowing French and Arabic, we hear Spanish, English and German being taught. In the background of the drama, we get the sense that Morocco is a place people leave once they reach a certain age, like Ismaïl’s brother living in Paris. This is a personal story from Al Hadi Ulad-Mohand, who has a Moroccan background but lives in Paris. It’s shot with many personal touches — including a hilarious phone line mix up — and lingering shots of the surrounding countryside that feel like a director looking nostalgically back at his past and his own country.

I just wished there were more moments that really heightened the drama instead of simply augmenting it. While the film is less about traditional storytelling than finding those little details that truly bring to life the way a family survives and persists and loves in face of such a tragedy, it does often feel like one thing after another than truly dramatic, especially during the last act.

One moment stands out: Rita sitting on her husband’s lap, kissing him while saying “she misses him.” She might be looking at the same person, but it’s not the same personality anymore. A heartbreaking high point in a modestly impressive debut.

Life Suits Me Well plays in the First Feature section of the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, running from 12-28th November.

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