ATLANTICS is many things. It’s a love story, it’s a tale of grief, it’s a coming-of-age story.
The tale begins with Souleiman demanding 4 months back pay from his job, only to get fired along with the rest of the crew. He meets up with his girlfriend Ada. He tries to tell her that he’s going to sail to Spain with his crew. It’s a suicide mission. Souleiman can’t bring himself to tell Ada, instead of disappearing from her life.
And Souleiman isn’t the only one who’s gone – lots of the young men in town have abandoned their girlfriends to go to sea. As Ada waits to find out where Souleiman is, she is forced to deal with her arranged marriage to Omar, a man she does not love.
Mati Diop has previously directed documentary A Thousand Suns and short Big in Vietnam. ATLANTICS won the Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival. Diop was also the first black woman director to be in competition for the Palme d’Or.
The majority of the actors for this film have no prior acting experience. Abdou Balde, Aminata Kane, Amadou Mbow, Mame Bineta Sane, Diankou Sembene, Nicole Sougou, Babacar Sylla, and Traore are all first-time film actors. One of the exceptions is actor Ibrahima Mbaye (Colombine, Yao, Adouna: La vie, le monde), who has been acting since the early 2000s.
This is a beautifully filmed movie. Part of ATLANTICS’ signature cinematography is subtle handheld camerawork. There are a few times where the audience feels like a fly on the wall, witnessing personal moments that feel unscripted.
In Senegal, Ada and Souleiman meet on beaches with louder-than-life waves. This is an audible theme in ATLANTICS — the mystery and overwhelming power of the ocean. The skillful, subtle editing in the film helps tie together this strange story.
ATLANTICS is an especially lovely movie and should not be missed.