Bendaher is gangbusters in the moment, mixing horror and the shame of embarrassment up as his already paltry resolve crumbles, turning from 17-years-old into a little boy right before us. But this isn't even the worst part -- the worst comes a scene later, when Ibrahim realizes his stunt's cost his father's his small-dream of getting his missing teeth fixed. The moments when you finally realize the sacrifices your parents have had to make, the humiliations they have had to suffer so maybe, just maybe you their child can have a life just slightly less awful, those ones tend to sting the deepest, and Guesmi captures that feeling in excruciating detail.
I cringe when I remember certain scenes like this from my own life now -- the tantrums I threw as my mother counted food-stamps in the checkout line, my god. And like Ibrahim petty-theft momentarily seemed the fix-it-upper way out of this poor place. I once sat in a store-detective's chair myself, waiting for my mother to come get me. Point being this film felt personal -- unlike a lot of the films that revel in "Poverty Porn" Guesmi's film isn't exploitative, and really gets it. The eensy little degradations every day heaps upon you until your head seethes and you don't know what to do, where to go, what's even right anymore.
In less than ninety-minutes Ibrahim-the-movie captures so much of the spirit of that pivotal moment, the one in Ibrahim-the-character's life where an on-the-cusp-of-manhood young man thrashes around desperate for the footing unto where the good path goes. Guesmi's crafted here a deeply heartfelt take on how wild and dangerous those moments can be. And film has real compassion for its side characters too -- Achille, who invites his friend one night to meet the older man whose been funding his python-jacketed lifestyle, might stand in for the path better-not-chosen, but Guesmi gives him a moving and humanizing speech about their place in the world. Ibrahim has empathy aplenty.