Dec 27, 2018
Welcome back to the podcast, as we switch from movies on HBO to a few more Netflix Originals. By the end of the year, I will have managed to watch and review every Netflix Original released in 2018. You can find a list of those reviews by heading over to onemoviepunch.com and searching on the Netflix Original blog tag. If you see any I’ve missed from this year, let me know using the contact form, or reach out over social media. Netflix shows no signs of stopping given their lineup for January 2019.
Today’s movie is “Bad Seeds” (2018), the Netflix Original French comedy written and directed by Kheiron. The film follows Wael (Kheiron), a small-time scam artist who manages a small criminal enterprise with his adopted mother. However, when he becomes a mentor for a group of troubled youth, Wael suddenly begins to find redemption, for himself and his charges.
I recently saw a meme on a friend’s timeline that said folks living in ghettos are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a combination of the lack of affordable living conditions and all forms of violence. The term ghetto is often used pejoratively now, one of the ultimate forms of social privilege, to describe something as lesser in some social, cultural, or economic way. But ghettos are real, and the levels of violence and repression in their communities are equivalent to a war zone. One could make the argument they experience violence on a much smaller scale, but on an individual level, the effects are indistinguishable, especially for children and adolescents. Talking heads love to blame these victims of their environment, often for thinly-veiled racist or sexist reasons, using terms like “bad seeds” for the ghetto and “troubled youth” for everyone else. It also doesn’t help when Hollywood tries to profit from this condition, especially with films like “Dangerous Minds” and “Higher Learning” perpetuating victimhood while only paying lip service to the conditions that give rise to the ghetto. No matter how well educated someone might become about the psychological, sociological, political, economic, and philosophical aspects of the ghetto, if you haven’t grown up in a ghetto, you simply cannot know its effects. But when someone has lived the experience, they can bring clarity to the rest of us who haven’t, and today’s movie makes that happen.
Kheiron’s family fled to France after the fall of the Shah in Tehran in 1979, one of many Persian expatriates to leave the country after the US-backed leader was deposed. Many fled with almost nothing, and ended up in ghettos across the world, or imposing on other communities abroad. His story is the basis of his first feature film, “Nous trois ou rien” (2015), and he brings the same combination of dark comedy and deadly seriousness to “Bad Seeds”. The lead character, Wael, is someone who has lived both in a war zone and in the ghetto, and the story bounces between Wael as a child learning to survive at all costs, and Wael as an adult living the result of those experiences with his adopted mother Monique (Catherine Deneuve). It also makes the character well-suited to help troubled youth, and exemplifies the shared effects of living in a war zone and living in a ghetto. Violence, hunger, exploitation, abuse... all factors that come up throughout the film. Wael helps each charge with their issue in surprising ways, as the film cuts back to a similar experience from Wael’s childhood, no matter how difficult the topic. And it can be difficult, from Wael’s village being shot up by military in the beginning to the fate of his Christian friend at the orphanage.
The supporting cast of adolescents are well chosen, each one believable even if we can’t delve too deeply into their stories. I was left with a lot of unanswered questions, wanting to see more follow up than possible in a feature-length film, although I wasn’t disappointed in the least bit. The combination of light-hearted comedy and serious themes can make for a difficult watch, but it also worked for me in the end. I could easily see other viewers being turned off by what is advertised as a comedy. However, I don’t think anyone with a heart will be able to resist how charming this odd combination can be, nor fail to identify with at least one of the characters, short of growing up in privilege all of one’s life. Great cast and direction. Better script and location choices. But a top-rate meaning and message, especially as we grasp with lifetimes of suffering caused by powerful people.
“Bad Seeds” (2018) is a dark, but surprisingly heartwarming comedy, which explores the connection between the trauma experiences in war zones and ghettos. Kheiron delivers a second film full of heart and new perspectives, even while traversing a somewhat overused premise. Fans of redemption tales, or fans of dark comedy, should definitely check out this film, but be ready for some really difficult themes.
Rotten Tomatoes: NR
One Movie Punch: 8.8/10
“Bad Seeds” (2018) is rated TV-MA and is currently streaming on Netflix.