Jarrod Emerson's Tribute to Omar Sharif
Part 5: MONSIEUR IBRAHIM (2003)
In 1960s working class Paris, Jewish adolescent “Moїse Schmidt” (Pierre Boulanger) is growing up a without a mother and a severely depressed, distant father (Gilbert Melki). When not chasing girls, Moise frequently shoplifts from the neighborhood grocery store, run by “Ibrahim Demirci” (Sharif), an elderly Turkish Muslim with whom Moise develops a bond. After Momo’s father loses his job and subsequently commits suicide, Ibrahim legally adopts Moise, loving and mentoring him the way his father never could.
Adapted and directed by François Dupeyron from the acclaimed novel, this award-winning French drama paints a simple but moving portrait of a lonely adolescent who gains a mentor and father figure when he least expects it. Heavy in both laughs and serious moments, Monsieur Ibrahim explores such universal themes as love and mentorship. Though he initially appears a bit of a troublemaker, we soon come to empathize with Moise. Abandoned by his mother after birth, and raised by his distant father, Momo has been forced to fend for himself, hence his frequent shoplifting from Ibrahim’s shop. Yet through Momo’s other interactions, it becomes clear that he is good-hearted, as we watch him attempt to score with neighborhood prostitutes and awkwardly flirt with his classmate/neighbor Myriam. Young Pierre Boulanger does a great job of bringing this troubled, but good-hearted adolescent to life.
Here a much older, seasoned Omar Sharif is simply wonderful as the kindly Ibrahim. Easily one of his strongest performances, Ibrahim sees Sharif take on yet another type of character very effectively. Upon seeing Moise shoplift, Ibrahim recognizes his reasons for doing so, seeing a youth in need as opposed to a petty thief. Yet despite differing backgrounds, Ibrahim frequently offers Moise advise from his Quran, leading Moise to realize that friendship and admiration transcend ethnicity and religion. In adopting Moise, Ibrahim also passes his wisdom down to him, which Moise can in turn pass on. Simple but effective, laced with fun 60s rock-n-roll tunes, Monsieur Ibrahim is a raw, emotional portrait about how blood does not always make family.