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La Graine et le Mulet (The Secret of the Grain) (Couscous)

La Graine et le Mulet (The Secret of the Grain) (Couscous) (2007)

tomatometer

92

Average Rating: 7.8/10
Reviews Counted: 51
Fresh: 47 | Rotten: 4

A complex portrait of an immigrant family, The Secret of the Grain is a sprawling, intimate film with many fine performances.

83

Average Rating: 7.6/10
Critic Reviews: 18
Fresh: 15 | Rotten: 3

A complex portrait of an immigrant family, The Secret of the Grain is a sprawling, intimate film with many fine performances.

audience

76

liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 8,922

My Rating

Movie Info

Though it is seldom discussed (or acknowledged) in the West, modern-day France incorporates a substantial number of immigrant communities, with many indigenes from North Africa populating the bucolic regions of southern Gaul. Abdel Kechiche's La Graine et le Mulet hones in on one such community, located on the ocean, which exudes a laid-back, unforced rhythm and a slower pace of life for all of its residents. For many years, one such occupant, sexagenarian Slimane Beiji (Habib Boufares), has

Unrated,

Art House & International, Drama

Jul 27, 2010

IFC Films - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (53) | Top Critics (18) | Fresh (47) | Rotten (4) | DVD (5)

Never sagging, it unfolds over 2 1/2 hours. Nothing is overexplained. Indeed, it takes us time to suss out Slimane's various familial relationships.

July 10, 2009 Full Review Source: Denver Post
Denver Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Time stretches out to the limits of endurance, Slimane's and ours, and there are moments toward the conclusion of this picture when you will want to scream and throw things at the screen, but it's mesmerizing. When it does end, suddenly, it feels a little

June 13, 2009 Full Review Source: Film.com
Film.com
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A ponderous tragedy about put-upon manhood? A verite snoop into cultures that are sexually mingled but publicly uneasy? A pill to be swallowed in the name of serious filmgoing? Maybe all of these.

May 7, 2009 Full Review Source: Washington Post | Comment (1)
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Secret of the Grain takes one man, his children, their spouses and babies, his ex-wife, his girlfriend, her daughter, and his friends and turns it all into a masterpiece about the strange power of food -- to heal, unite, exasperate.

February 19, 2009 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Rather than observing this family, we feel we are part of it, and that draws us in as nothing else can.

January 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche is that rare thing at the movies these days: an intelligent humanist.

January 29, 2009 Full Review Source: L.A. Weekly
L.A. Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Kechiche may subscribe to Renoir's "Everyone has his reasons," but here he shoots the action with a nervous tension that's more evocative of Pialat.

November 14, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Comment Magazine
Film Comment Magazine

A beautifully painted portrait of everyday Arab immigrant life in France among a large dysfunctional family.

April 27, 2011 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

... a magnificent journey through culture and family and community.

August 11, 2010 Full Review Source: Seanax.com
Seanax.com

Many great suspense sequences have been built around props: a bomb under the table, explosives in the back of the truck, a nuclear launch code. And now couscous.

August 1, 2010 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

When the film, as it must, comes to an end after two and a half hours, you won't be ready; the bond made to this family makes its sudden absence feel downright brutal. [Blu-ray]

July 19, 2010 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

Secret of the Grain may be the most ambitious, complex, and suspenseful film about a feast ever to be served at the movies.

May 11, 2010 Full Review Source: Looking Closer
Looking Closer

A dark and hilarious parable of human absurdity.

April 23, 2009 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

Despite some strong performances from the mostly amateur cast, as well as some intriguing insights into family dysfunctions and racial prejudice, the movie still comes across as being self-indulgent and at least a little disappointing.

April 17, 2009 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Everyone figures in a masterfully paced final act that's hypnotic, genuinely suspenseful and emotionally complex.

March 20, 2009 Full Review Source: Oregonian
Oregonian

Writer-director Abdel Kechiche has wrought a definitive statement on how it feels to live in a subculture.

March 13, 2009 Full Review Source: Baltimore Sun
Baltimore Sun

A long but always engaging movie, intimately framed and exuberantly acted by a mixed cast of amateurs and professionals.

January 30, 2009 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Daily News
Los Angeles Daily News

Before you scoff at yet another benevolent look at a family straddling two cultures, Kechiche subtly subverts the genre.

January 12, 2009 Full Review Source: Film-Forward.com
Film-Forward.com

Audience Reviews for La Graine et le Mulet (The Secret of the Grain) (Couscous)

A very good film that I almost turned off 40 minutes in. I'm very glad I didn't, the ending alone is worth sticking it out for. Aside from the over-long exposition, La Graine et le Mulet is a film that is really, really interesting to think about after watching it, as it tells a story of one family finding its place in its adopted homeland. It's very hard to summarize the story without ruining the drama, but suffice to say that Claude Berri plays into stereotypes very well, and over the course of the film turns you for and against his protagonists very easily. I think this film is meant to expose the viewer's pre-conceived notions and make you question yourself: if you're French and happen to be a little xenophobic, you'll see it very differently than if you're an immigrant to France from North Africa... and if you're a neutral Canadian like me? It's an eye-opener to a variety of discrimination that's generally not seen here, and a good film to watch for that reason. The movie's a bit on the long side, but all in all it is worth sticking it out for enjoyable and poignant second half.
August 27, 2009
danperry17

Super Reviewer

An intimate invitation into the lives of a French-Arab family, THE SECRET OF THE GRAIN is a long and complex drama that reveals multiple aspects of familial relationships by utilizing various dynamics that reflect its characters' emotions without the need to overly express. Abdel Kechiche's film features performances from its large ensemble cast that are impressive, natural, and always believable, as well as a story that builds gradually and effectively before reaching an abrupt but satisfying climax. Shot entirely hand-held, the film's visual style places us right next to the family members as they eat, argue, converse, and panic as if we were included in their small community. In doing so, Kechiche has crafted a film that is both intricate and genuine - one that never feels long and is subtly riveting til the very end.
June 1, 2011
Sheldon Chau

Super Reviewer

What an incredible experience! A quiet, very dignified man, Slimane (Habib Boufares), a Turkish immigrant to this southern port city in France, pursues his dream after getting laid off at the job he has held for 35 years. He buys an old hulk of a boat and converts it to a couscous restaurant. Helping him to realize his dream is as varied a cast of characters as one could ever hope for. Hafsia Herzi is stunning as Rym, the daughter of the woman he now lives with and the person who most believes in him. She definitely goes on this viewer's watch list. I want to see more of her! Slimane's family is a noisy, fractious bunch that includes several grown children and their spouses who gather at their mother's house for Sunday dinners. The conversation flows freely and one instantly feels a part of the bonhomie. At two and a half hours, it runs long, but even so, it never seems to drag. The emotions are intense, the story compelling, the frustrations of swimming against the cultural tide are palpable and the heroic dignity of Slimane makes this a superb view into this community.
May 21, 2010
Mark Abell

Super Reviewer

[font=Century Gothic]In "The Secret of the Grain," Slimane Beiji(Habib Boufares) is a 61-year old laid-off dockworker, living with his girlfriend Lafita(Mohamed Karaoui) in her hotel. He is so estranged from his family that he does not even attend Sunday dinner. At a crossroads in his life, he decides to open a floating restaurant with the help of Lafita's daughter Rym(Hafsia Herzi), with his ex-wife Souad(Bouraouia Marzouk) making her signature couscous.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"The Secret of the Grain" is an engaging movie that has much to say on the nature of family and insight into the immigrant experience and what they bring to their host country. But like any quality dish, there can be too much of a good thing, especially with a structure that is a little off, giving too much time to setting up the plot and not enough to the individual members of the family. And while I enjoy epic feasts on film as much as any other cinephile, the one in this film is served with contrivance upon contrivance upon contrivance, topped off with a healthy dose of cliche.[/font]
January 19, 2009
Harlequin68
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Couscous mit Fisch (DE)
  • The Secret of the Grain (La Graine et le mulet) (Couscous) (UK)
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