The fluorescent lights of Hollywood Video shine on me. While most people in the store linger over flicks like “White Chicks,” I ponder some of the world’s most overlooked titles - independent and foreign films. My hand snakes out to one that has caught my eye: “Monsieur Ibrahim.” It is in French with English subtitles. Perfect, I decide, and take it home. Two hours later, I emerge from my bedroom with tears streaming down my face. This is a stunning movie.
The captivating “Monsieur Ibrahim” centers around 16-year-old Moses, Momo for short (Pierre Boulanger), who lives with his father in a lower-class section of Paris on a street haunted by call girls. The boy and his father have a tense relationship because Momo’s mother left years before and in his father’s eyes, Momo will never reach the greatness of his brother. Though he has never met his brother, Momo is sure that he would hate him. The “family” is impoverished and can afford little food, so Momo becomes adept at swiping things from “the Arab” - Monsieur Ibrahim - who owns the grocery store. An unlikely pair, they become friends when Monsieur Ibrahim (Omar Sharif) tells the boy that he owes nothing for the stolen food.
From the man, a devout follower of Islam born in Turkey, the Jewish boy learns about other faiths and consequently how to feed his uncaring father on cat food by saying that it is paté.
When Momo’s father leaves and is found dead on the road two weeks later, Monsieur Ibrahim adopts Momo and takes him to Turkey on a religious journey. There, Moses learns even more about Islam and how faith can change his life.
This 2004 movie’s brilliant cinematography and stunning acting add to a story full of life, love and growth. This coming-of-age story teaches that no matter what, you will always find love in the world, that youth and old-age can mix, and that life is a journey where two ends will meet.
During this time of war, I think this film is important to watch, if only for its ideas of Islamic faith. Monsieur Ibrahim is not a suicide bomber, nor does he hate a certain denomination, or wish for war. He believes that everything he needs to know is in his holy book, and those ideas guide him through life. The movie portrays the real side of a faith that has been marred.
A movie worth watching, “Monsieur Ibrahim” is capable of changing your life. .
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.