Cape of Good Hope

It's pretty unusual to see a film from South Africa. But Cape of Good Hope is a nice change of pace, especially since the last 'real' South African film was the weirdly awful (and awfully weird) Proteus. Here is a warm movie centering on the lives and travails of three women. It works because all of the characters are so likable, and the tone is so optimistic. Director Mark Bamford, who co-wrote the story with is wife Suzanne Kay Bamford, even add some very dark undertones to the story. Still, it is refreshing to see a film populated with such good people. Cape of Good Hope revolves primarily around three women, all connected through an animal shelter.

Kate (Debbie Brown, Borderline, Dazzle) spends her time managing a local animal shelter. She's comfortable because of a trust fund, but lonely. Kate spends most of her time at the shelter. She is having an affair with a married man, who is treating her like crap. Morne (Morne Visser, Shark Attack II, Running Free) is a vet who has taken an interest in her. Morne is a genuinely good guy, but Kate keeps blowing him off, chasing a relationship that deep down, she knows will never work. Kate works with Sharifa (Quanita Adams), who is struggling to conceive. Her husband Habib (David Isaacs) refuses to believe that he may be the reason, causing considerable strain on their relationship. Habib's character is mostly played for laughs, but the Bamfords to manage to give him a few touching moments late in the film.

The heart of the movie is Lindiwe (Nthati Moshesh, Kin, The Long Run). She is a single mother stretched to the limit. She works as a maid during the day, and goes to school at night. Her son Thabo (Kamo Masilo) ditches school, and her mother (Lillian Dube, In My Country, Hey Boy) nags her constantly to find a husband and to stop studying. Kate sees Thabo playing with his dog, and asks him to go to her shelter over the weekend. There, he meets Jean Claude (Eriq Ebouaney, Kingdom of Heaven, Femme Fatale), a Congolese refugee. Jean Claude is a professor of astronomy, reduced to cleaning cages. He is waiting for a visa that will allow him to immigrate to Canada. Jean Claude faces a lot of discrimination (on account of his refuge status), but still slowly becomes the father figure that Thabo is missing.

There is nothing really new or revolutionary about Cape of Good Hope. It works because Bamford tempers the desire to be too sappy by grounding it a reality that can get depressing. The stories weave in and out of each other without feeling too artificial. He gives a multiracial look at today's South Africa that doesn't really touch on race at all (except for issues with Jean Claude) and instead focuses on the characters. Habib and Sharifa are devout Muslims who want children. Habib is a good man, but a bit daft at times, and is blaming Sharifa for their issues. Kate's refusal to exit her affair stems partially from feelings of abandonment by her father, and disgust at her mother's four marriages. This is something safe for her. A relationship with Morne is too risky. Brown is wonderfully charming and reminiscent of a younger Brenda Blethyn. If anything, some of the male characters are a bit too perfect. Morne and Jean Claude are shining specimens of the perfect men. They are handsome, smart, charming, one can cook and the other has a PhD and plays in a band. It's almost too easy. But again, the stories never come across as simplified or trite. There is a very natural feeling to the proceedings, and one cannot help but smile at how everything ends, as predictable as it is.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 47 minutes, Rated PG-13 for mature situations including some violence, sexual content, and brief strong language.

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