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The Secret Laughter Of Women Review

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★★★★★

Fresh from his cracking turn as the dastardly villain in Shakespeare In Love, Colin Firth must have had enough of grimy England and decided that a brief sojourn to the idyllic French countryside was the perfect antidote -otherwise his appearance in this slight, dull, if undeniably picturesque romance is somewhat inexplicable.

Focusing on the Nigerian community in a southern French town, Nimi (Long) is trying to raise her son Sammy (Roberts), while being pestered to marry by those around her. They favour the new priest (Bakare), but when Sammy bumps into Matthew (Firth), he decides it would be much better if his mother got hitched to him. So begins a culture clash love story as Nimi finds her feelings getting stronger for the self-confident outsider, which conflicts with the way of her people.

However, despite the sumptuous Gallic countryside, some competent filmmaking and good intentions, it’s a bit turgid. Long convincingly loses her American accent, but often looks as if she is concentrating more on that than creating an emotional character. Proceedings would be unbearable if it weren’t for Firth, whose witty, charismatic performance is a welcome respite from everyone else. The scenes between him and Roberts in particular provide some much-needed light, entertaining banter.The movie fails to introduce anything vaguely challenging about cultural differences -it’s saying white and black are different, but love will see you through. Been there, done that. This isn’t helped by the fact that Long never persuasively expresses how Nimi feels about her situation; she doesn’t love the vicar, but what is her relationship with Matthew really based on? This indecision induces fury and apathy, further increasing one’s ambivalence towards her character.