In âFÃ©licitÃ©,â VÃ©ro Tshanda Beya plays the title character, a singer and single mother in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The movie opens in a lively bar, full of gyrating, intoxicated folk, whom FÃ©licitÃ© and the band entertain all night with infectious songs filled with blue notes. (The music is provided by the well-regarded Kasai Allstars.)
The next day, sheâs got troubles with her refrigerator and negotiations with a local handyman. Then, some bad news: Her teenage son has been grievously injured in a motorbike accident. He needs an immediate â and immediately paid-for â operation.
In an ordinary movie this would set off a race-against-the-clock scenario. But âFÃ©licitÃ©,â written and directed by the Franco-Senegalese filmmaker Alain Gomis, is an unconventional treatment of an emergency.
At crucial junctures in FÃ©licitÃ©âs desperate scramble to raise funds for her sonâs medical care, Mr. Gomis, who wrote the screenplay with Olivier Loustau and Delphine Zingg, expands time instead of compressing it. FÃ©licitÃ© still has her job to do, after all. This movie aspires to depict real life, not life as cinema is often inclined to idealize it; by the same token, it is hardly a work of naturalism.
Mr. Gomisâs cinematic style is spectacularly multifaceted. The camerawork and cutting often have the fleetness of a documentary, but thereâs nothing sloppy about them. (The cinematography is by CÃ©line Bozon, the editing by Fabrice Rouaud and the director.)