Based on a short story names, ‘The Guest’ by Albert Camus, Far From Men is a 2014 film that is just now circulating around the Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Festival du film de La Renioun, the Sariat Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival. All of which it has cleaned up the awards for Best Picture and Best Actor for star Viggo Mortensen.
The film stars Mortensen as a young, widowed teacher who lives and teaches young Algerian children in the middle of the Algerian countryside. It is 1954, at the height of the Algerian War for Independence. His name is Daru and he has an undefined past, but we are led to believe that he was a soldier that has put his guns down (for the most part) and picked up books. He loves teaching and loves children. He is solitary man whose only interaction is with his students and the few soldiers that come by, periodically. On one occasion, Daru is brought a young Muslim man named Mohamed, who is accused of killing his cousin who tried to steal Mohamed’s grain. Daru is charged with taking Mohamed to a French town for a trial and sentencing, but Daru refuses. His war is over, but since he is not well liked and his school is threatened, he reluctantly agrees. As they start their journey across the mountains of Algeria, they are harassed and harried by Mohamed’s cousins and by troops as well. It is a treacherous journey and if they both make it, it will be a miracle.
Far From Men was directed by David Oelhoffen, who adapted the screenplay from Camus’ short story, and he makes very good use of the sprawling landscapes for some gorgeous cinematography by Guillaume Deffontaines. The screenplay is thoughtful and not heavy handed about honor, family and duty and Mortensen is terrific. As for Muhamed, he is played by Reda Kateb and his performance is solid although sometimes his lines are somewhat mumbled. Since the entire film is in French with English subtitles, you won’t mind it much. The film is also about loneliness and two guys that seem to understand each others empty life. But, this is never laid on too thick. Less is more in Far From Men. As for the last act, it does tend to sputter but Mortensen is immensely watchable and so totally envelopes himself into his character you will tend to give it some slack. This is a poignant, sad but heartfelt film and only being director Oelhoffen’s second feature film, this is a winner. Far From Men is now out in limited release in theaters, BUT is available with Comcast On Demand and is worth seeking out.