An ambitious family drama, The Secret of the Grain is a boisterous yet poignant insight into the struggles of muslim French-Algerians in contemporary France.
Laid off from the docks of Sete on the Mediterranean coast after years of loyal but off-the-books service, Slimane Beiji (Habib Boufares – Another Sky) looks to invest his severance pay in a dockside couscous restaurant. A man of few words, he looks to his partner’s teenage daughter Rym (Hafsia Herzi – Tu mérites un amour, Bonne mère) to help him deal with French bureaucracy. His ex-wife, adult children and their families all have roles to play as the narrative builds to a lavish crescendo of food, music, bellydancing and suspense.
Director Abdellatif Kechiche (Blue is the Warmest Colour, L’esquive) builds his cinema verité tale slowly with intense close ups of mothers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters talking, eating, laughing, arguing. It provides an insight into family members and the ties that bond. The drama and tensions of Slimane’s personal hopes and aspirations are revealed through everyday dialogue – as are the difficulties of living on the margins of mainstream French society.