Cousines | Kilburnlad | Film | Reviews

Cousines


Cousines

I've tagged this as a French language film but it's actually Haitian and the dialogue is more of a creole, making it almost impossible for me to understand, give or take the occasional identifiable French phrases and words. It's also a very low budget film, with an estimated budget of $85,000 compared with an average of $100 million for a major studio movie. This is reflected in the production values with both sound and vision being less professional than we've perhaps come to expect. However, this should not be allowed to detract from this offering from the fledgling Haitian film industry, a country that doesn't enjoy the wealth of other nations.

Jessica is a young woman whose father is working in America. She rents a room from friends of her father, Margareth and Gasner, but early in the film she learns that her father has died. If this wasn't bad enough, Gasner is adamant that she must leave her room, since her father was paying the rent and without it, Gasner needed to rent the room to somebody else. Out on the street, Jessica goes to her cousin, Johanne, who takes her in. From there, Jessica visits her estranged mother, who is invalided, neither speaking nor, it would appear, hearing. Jessica realises that there is no place for her there, and returns to Johanne's.

Johanne has a number of 'boyfriends', her way of life really being nothing less than prostitution, although each boyfriend sees her as a future partner rather than a prostitute and she strings them along rather than treating them as clients. Jessica observes this but is non-judgemental. Johanne, on the other hand, is quick to advise Jessica that she should never follow the same path.

Jessica has not, however, escaped the eyes of the local males, many of whom have desires on her, including Boby whose interest appears sincere rather than lecherous. When Johanne throws a birthday party Jessica is keenly watched by a number of admirers, including Ralph, who has recently returned to the island, and Félix, a older rich man who believes that his wealth can buy him anything. In fact Félix makes a proposition to Jessica, basically asking her to name her price to spend a night with him. She rejects his proposition outright. Ralph, on the other hand, is less direct, but nevertheless equally desirous of being with Jessica. She leaves the party wanting nothing to do with either of them.

The story takes a turn when Johanne is rushed to hospital and needs an urgent operation that will cost $10,000. Nobody can put this amount together and after Jessica has gone through Johanna's phone book seeking help, it becomes clear that nobody is going to offer it. She therefore makes a supreme sacrifice by going to Félix, who gives her the money but at great personal cost to her, and humiliation. This greatly upsets Boby but doesn't deter Ralph, who offers her a better life away from Haiti. Jessica has to make the most important decision of her young life. Love with Boby or an easy life with Ralph, but without love.

There is one little twist at the end of the film, when we find out that Ralph had been extremely ill while in America, and at the point of giving up on life. He was saved by the help and encouragement of a male nurse, to whom he owes a great deal, but who died of a heart attack shortly after Ralph became well. Although it is not stated explicitly, it seems that the nurse was Jessica's father.

There are very few reviews around for this film, and neither could I find a trailer for this review, but I have embedded the complete film below from YouTube. You can select subtitles from the bottom menu bar in YouTube. It's a simple story set in the relative poverty of Haiti, showing how people survive, doing what they must to live and how, despite the temptation that money can offer, love is in the end more important.


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