Top Floor Left Wing was a bit of a forced film among my selections at this year’s Sydney Film Fest. I don’t often get forced into seeing a film — no matter how much peer pressure is involved — but strangely with this one, I kind of peer-pressured myself into seeing it. Here’s the reasoning: You can’t have a film festival without seeing a French film, right? (Well, obviously you can, considering there are film festivals that focus on films from one country specifically…). C’est bizarre, non? And though Top Floor Left Wing is nowhere near a bad film, as I’ll admit I had my fair share of investment in the characters and laughs at the film, it wasn’t as enjoyable as I thought (or tricked myself into believing) it would be.
The story starts off in an apartment building in a Parisian suburb, where bailiff Francois (Hippolyte Girardot) goes on one of his regular evictions to the home of Mohand (Mohamed Fellag). Mohand’s son Salem (Aymen Saïdi) panics — he’s currently holding a huge stash of cocaine for a dealer he knows – and takes Francois hostage when he realises cops are at his door. Salem tries to bide time with the hostage situation while waiting for the dealer to help him out, but soon a taskforce of police, neighbours, and even a SWAT team become involved. The situation isn’t helped with all the confliciting personal presumptions and politics of everyone who gets drawn into the mess, and people then really start to clash.
A film like this is tricky. Some of the subject matters covered are so heavy — everything from immigrants in France to tenant eviction to drugs, and even marriage relationships. But then it tries to lighten the mood by bringing comedy into the proceedings. Judging by the trailer, I thought it would be much funnier than it was. Writer and director Angelo Cianci might have fared better with his film if he focused a bit more on either drama or comedy, as the strange mix didn’t sit well with me, leaving me a bit apathetic to the film afterwards.
It’s hard to really be on either side of the fence with this film. On the one hand, the story is interesting enough, but then it seems to lag in a few places, which makes you lose interest. There are funny moments, but not enough to make it a good comedy (or even a dark comedy). There are some emotional moments — actually, no flip side for this point, the emotional moments are handled nicely. The acting is decent and sincere — if nothing else, I did feel like I got something out of the main characters. But even as I was watching the film, nothing ever really stood out or made a big impact — good or bad. Top Floor Left Wing is a decent enough film, but unfortunately for me there wasn’t really anything special. Noting connected, and so nothing was memorable. A little bit disappointing, but this is what you get when you play Film Roulette.
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