Omar Sy is having a moment. On the heels of his recent worldwide smash streaming series Lupin, it seems all everyone can talk about is the charismatic French actor. He’s everywhere from Vogue to Variety. As a long-time fan of Sy, it’s nice to see everyone finally catching up to what many have known for a long time: Sy is simply amazing.
While he has a number of Hollywood credits to his name, from X-Men to Transformers, it’s his French movies that I have always been drawn to. He’s able to seamlessly switch from comedy to drama, while weaving in commentary on French society in a way that seems effortless rather than didactic.
It’s a responsibility he seems to take seriously. As part of promotion for his new series, Sy went undercover in the Paris metro to put up the promotional panel for his new series. Despite his face literally being on the poster he is putting up, and being one of France’s most famous actors, passers-by failed to recognise him. He later commented: ‘Lack of consideration is violence. It is a first form of violence. It’s here … something is born. You have to pay attention to how you view the other, you have to be careful of prejudices.’
So, where to start if you are looking to catch up on all things Sy? First stop has to be The Intouchables. The 2011 film, a worldwide hit, is about a wealthy white aristocrat who hires a young black man from the projects to be his caregiver. On its face, the film’s potential to descend into saccharine cliché is obvious. A black man in a servile role whose purpose seems to be to redeem a wealthy white man is the kind of movie that would usually have me saying no thank you, next. However, Sy is able to elevate the film and avoid it descending into racist cliché.
My next Sy recommendation is 2014’s Samba. The film follows the travails of Senegalese migrant Samba who, after 10 years in France, is caught in a bureaucratic immigration nightmare which could have him deported. There are parts of the film which seem implausible and don’t always hit the mark, but Sy is able to bring life to the hopes, joys and crushing disappointments of the migrant experience in a way that had this daughter of immigrants cheering.
The final stop on my primer of all things Sy is Two is A Family. I came across the 2016 movie recently on one of those evenings where the length of time it’s taking to pick a movie is starting to rival the actual length of a movie.
At first, the plot did not sound particularly appealing. However, I reassured my dubious movie companions that it would be good because Sy ‘always just elevates whatever he is in’. Sure enough, Sy was able to transform the seemingly ridiculous plot (a comedy about a womanising party animal who has his life turned upside down when a former fling appears, then disappears, leaving him with his three-month-old daughter) into a heart-warming tale about being a single black parent.
I could go on and on, but hopefully this has you convinced to choose an Omar Sy film for your next night in.
Fatima Malik is a writer and lawyer; follow her on Instagram here.