During a gathering of the Cowboy scene in France daughter Kelly disappears into thin air without any apparent reason. To their surprise their daughter has feld with her secret boyfriend Ahmed to Syria.
The gobsmacked father Alain (a convincing atypical role for comedic actor François Damiens) starts an obsessive search to bring back his daughter. Initially he’s accompanied by his son (an excellent Finnegan Oldfield you may know from the sadly somewhat overlooked films La Marche, a.k.a. The Marchers, 2013 and Ni le ciel ni la terre, a.k.a. The Wakhan Front, 2015).
The premise sounds very present-day, therefore you may be surprised that -as per a banner you can see in the opening country festival- the story starts in 1994 and not in more contemporary times.
First time director Thomas Bidegain, up to now known as a screenplay writer a.o. for Jacques Audiard (Un Prophète, De rouille et d’os and Dheepan) Joachim Lafosse (A Perdre la raison and the upcoming Les Chevaliers blancs) and the next Michaël R. Roskam picture Le fidèle (The Faithful), mixes elements from classic westerns, mainly John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) and transposes the classic ‘culture’ clash between cowboys and indians to the clash between the western -mostly- secularised democratic society versus the -in part- radicalised islamic society and draws conclusions that may surprise many an audience.
The film works surprisingly well, has been excellenty cast (John C. Reilly as L’Américain is a joy to watch, Sam Louwyck comes across very well as a forger of documents) and the typical western elements are subtly integrated in the story line and didn’t feel forced at all. Due to the recent events in Paris the film will probably be perceived/ addressed differently than if it would have been released 2 months earlier but in my opinion it would be silly to do so. Life doesn’t always imitate art or vice versa and it does not make the film less poignant.