Netflix film Atlantics is well shot, with a directorial vision in mind, but the story goes off in a deep daydream and forgets about its audience.
The opening of Atlantics is a base-setter for the audience. A group of workers are working on a futuristic tower in Dakar, and news has spread that they will not be paid again for another month, despite promises by the end of the week. The story opens up with a rich man exploiting his workers, leaving men unable to fulfill their families’ desires. The opening is shot with patience, with an underlying tension digging into the workers’ pride.
One of those workers is Souleiman (Traore), who is in love with Ada (Mame Bineta Sane). The Netflix film sells the couple as woefully in-love in a world that is not meant for their union. Ada is already promised to another man as part of an arranged marriage. The story reeks of vying for wealth over love, as her family and friends believe she has hit the jackpot with Omar.
The community is lost and bewildered by the lack of care for their needs. Ada lives in a world of longing and mystery, wondering if Souleiman is alive after he darted out at sea during a migration attempt in search of a better life. Atlantics is a story of yearning while battling within the confines of traditionality and cruelty.
Unfortunately, the African film spends far too long in daydreams, subjecting the audience to an overplay of directorial visions. Atlantics rummages through scenes, exposing us to characters that require less screen time. The film’s ideology overcomes the story’s purpose and crushes any hope of recovering narrative. Ada is less-used, despite being the central point of the idea, with slithers of other plot points coming forth. There’s also an element of trippiness that deprives the film of any joy whatsoever.
And the whole point is that it is meant to be joyless. The entire story is bittersweet in Atlantics, however, its reliance on an independent-feel makes it less responsible for engaging characters. Atlantics is a good excuse for the director to implement his filmmaking flair but I felt no care for the characters whatsoever.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.