Sara Forestier's Baya Benmahmoud and Jacques Gamblin's Arthur Martin exemplify in the extreme the axiom that says opposites attract. Baya is the uninhibited young daughter of an Algerian refugee (Zinedine Soualem) and a rebellious French heiress (Carole Franck). Arthur, an ornithologist, is the serious middle-aged son of a nuclear scientist and Algerian war veteran (Jacques Boudet) and a Jewish mother (Michele Moretti) traumatized by the deportation of her parents during the Holocaust.
The film warmly embraces multicultural diversity while acknowledging the obstacles to its achieving a harmonious fruition. It is critical of conservative Muslims, the lack of interest in the lives and views of ordinary Arabs, the dire plight of undocumented immigrants and, in the instance of Arthur, his detachment and disinterest in his Jewish ancestry on his mother's side.
So many actresses are asked to be adorable even in their characters' most exasperating moments, but few pull it off as well as Forestier, with her spirit of innocent, well-meaning recklessness; her efforts were rewarded with a lead actress Cesar. It helps that she is surrounded by actors as perfectly cast and talented as she is.
-- Kevin Thomas
"Le Nom des Gens" ("The Names of Love"). MPAA rating: R for sexual content including graphic nudity, and some language. In French with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes. At The Landmark, West Los Angeles; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino; Regal's University Town Center 6, Irvine.