TIFF 2018 Angel Featured

TIFF 2018: Angel Review

Contemporary World Cinema

There’s one huge flaw to the way Koen Mortier’s Angel is told.  There doesn’t seem to be enough for the audience to hold onto in order to buy into the love story between its two main characters.

Angel is a story about Fae (Fatou N’Diaye), a Senegalese sex worker, and Thierry (Vincent Rottiers), a Belgian racing cyclist.  When Thierry and his brother, Serge, decide to abscond to Senegal so Theirry can spend some time away from being an infamous former Tour de France cyclist, they meet Fae and her friend Binta.  Thierry and Fae are immediately attracted to each other.  As an audience we know that they both have similar approaches to life.  They’re both out to prove they’re not what everyone else thinks of them.  And, they both take pride in sacrificing their bodies.  However, Angel, doesn’t give the two of them much screen time together.  No real chemistry is formed.  This makes it hard to go along with some of the more melodramatic scenes later in the film.  The nagging feeling that Fae and Thierry couldn’t possibly love each other the way they say they do in their limited time together on screen will keep bubbling up.

Outside of the love story at the center of Angel, there are some mesmerizing sequences involving Thierry’s guilty conscience about his past and some odd, yet fascinating, stories about his days as a birthday magician.  This all works to round out Thierry’s character.  It makes most of his actions in Senegal understandable.  It just feels like time that could have been used to build up his relationship with Fae so that the attempted gut punch of the movie landed a bit better.


There’s no doubt that there are elements to like and admire in this film.  The cinematography will definitely stay with you and the slice of Senegalese life is a refreshing change of scenery.  However, the true enjoyment of Angel will come down to whether you buy that Fae and Thierry actually have strong feelings for each other or not.