The story of two brothers as opposing forces is a tale as old as time, dating back to some of the world’s oldest mythologies. We see this premise play out in director Marc Fouchard’s latest film, In His Shadow. Starring Assa Sylla as Aïssata, Alassane Diong as Adama, Kaaris as Ibrahim, and Carl Malapa as Malik, this dramatic thriller explores the imploding dynamics between half-brothers after the tragic death of their father. Featuring supernatural elements which distract more than aid the overall story, this predictable plot is held together by its performances.
We’re introduced to Adama and his lack of sight immediately before jumping back to the ‘80s for some exposition. We’re shown how he lost his sight as a child as a result of an accident. While it is contested whether or not the blindness is a result of witchcraft, the family learns to adapt to his disability. Things are tough between Adama and his elder half-brother, Ibrahim, who internalizes his father’s embrace of a second wife as an outright rejection. This festers inside Ibrahim, who takes up a life of crime in order to provide for himself and his family. This brings us to the present day.
Ibrahim’s embrace of crime has led to him ruling their section of the banlieues, collecting protection fees from the shops locally, and roughing up anyone that threatens his family under the guise of protectiveness. When Adama’s and Ibrahim’s father dies suddenly, family conflicts are brought up to the surface, with Ibrahim tightening his hold on the banlieues and everyone around him no matter the cost. After his life and his mother’s life are threatened, Adama takes the first step towards making things right. This unleashes a ripple of events that ultimately culminate in one final showdown.
In His Shadow is straightforward with its premise. It’s clear where the story will go within the first few minutes of the film. Setting the tale in this Senegalese-French immigrant community adds a different twist to the familiar. A failure to thoroughly develop the characters beyond the surface highlights the lack of weight to the otherwise plot-driven story.
An example of this failure to develop can be seen in the witchcraft element. The moments with the witch are peppered throughout, but there’s no cohesive reason for her involvement other than moving the plot forward with Adama. While beautifully shot, the witchcraft element could have been removed from the story, and there would be a minimal difference to the plot’s trajectory.
What helps In His Shadow are the performances, particularly from Diong. The characters are elevated as best as possible from the written material due to everyone’s commitment. We are taken through Adama’s journey of growth and strength, watching how Diong embodies the experiences of this visually impaired character. While I can’t speak entirely for the accuracy, Diong’s body language and facial expressions created a multifaceted man ready to finally step into his own.
Comparatively, there were some issues with Kaaris’s Ibrahim. While he did the best with what he could with the material, a more visible exploration of Ibrahim’s internal conflict would have made the character more compelling onscreen. The framework is there. We get these glimpses of that internal conflict surrounding masculinity and the perceived rejection of his father, but there was potential to show more. As is, audiences will likely root for Ibrahim’s demise, given the set-up at hand.
The cinematography is something that can’t be ignored in In His Shadow. Cinematographers Pierre-Yves Bastard and Fabrice Sébille did well here. From how the actors were stunningly lit to how visually Adama’s blurred eyesight was portrayed, there were some beautifully smart decisions made to create a distinct color and visual palette onscreen.
In His Shadow could have used more development to move the story beyond its familiar plot. Clocking in at just under 90 minutes, there was room to expand and explore the characters in the script without sacrificing the established groundwork. The saving grace is in the performances. Diong’s Adama is memorable, not just because he is in that little man role, but because of the internal world he has created to help fully realize this would-be hero.
In His Shadow is now on Netflix.
In His Shadow
In His Shadow could have used more development to move the story beyond its familiar plot. Clocking in at just under 90 minutes, there was room to expand and explore the characters present in the script without sacrificing the groundwork already established. The saving grace is in the performances. Diong’s Adama is memorable, not just because he is in that little man role, but because of the internal world he has created to help fully realize this would-be hero.
Sarah is a writer and editor for BWT. When she’s not busy writing about KDramas, she’s working as the EIC over at horror entertainment site, Nightmarish Conjurings, where she has yet to hug the ghoulies that haunt our waking nightmares. She’s also a Rotten Tomatoes Certified critic and a published author of both fiction and non-fiction.