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Film / Atlantics

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Atlantics, original title Atlantique, is a 2019 French/Senegalese drama set in Dakar and directed by Mati Diop.

Ada is in love with Souleiman, an underpaid construction worker, but she is promised to marry a wealthy man, Omar, who she does not love. After unsuccessfully petitioning for the three months' unpaid wages they are owed, Souleiman and the boys (his construction crew) decide to sail to Spain to work there. Souleiman leaves without saying goodbye, leaving Ada distraught.


Then, a mysterious series of fires arises, and Issa, a young detective, is convinced Ada had something to do with it. And many people with a connection to her or the boys keep falling mysteriously ill.... Beware unmarked spoilers.

Atlantics is at once an intimate romantic drama, a fairy tale, a detective story, and a politically charged indictment of class inequalities in Senegal.

Tropes present in Atlantics:

  • Arranged Marriage: Ada has been arranged to marry Omar. Though her friends say she is lucky for the opportunity to rise in status by marrying a wealthy man, she is bitterly unhappy about it and only complies because her parents force her to, as she loves Souleiman.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: The police seem to mostly serve the rich rather than seeking justice or protecting people's rights. Also, in a twist, it turns out the person responsible for all the fires the police are investigating was actually Issa, the officer assigned to the case, while possessed by the ghost of the suspect.
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  • Eat the Rich: Rich people are generally the antagonists in the film; by the end, the poor protagonists have triumphed over the wealthy antagonists and gained what they are owed.
  • Enter Stage Window: Ada sneaks out her bedroom window at night to go party at Dior's place.
  • Da Chief: Issa is supervised by a gruff older man who questions whether he's capable of solving the case, and threatens to take him off the case.
  • Demonic Possession: After the wedding, Mariema and many of Ada's other friends start having strange fainting fits, which their families attribute to possession by an evil spirit and so they attempt to have them exorcised. In fact, they are possessed by the spirits of The Boys.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Before the wedding, Ada is troubled by a dream about a giant fish eating Souleiman's body. This dream occurs around the time of Souleiman's death in the ocean.
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  • Fantastic Noir: Downplayed. The setting is mostly Like Reality, Unless Noted, but a major subplot is police officer's attempts to solve a series of seemingly impossible crimes, which are eventually revealed to be supernatural in nature.
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: While out at sea, the boys encounter what they think is a mountain. They rejoice, thinking they've reached Spain, but it was actually an enormous wave that destroys their boat, killing them all.
  • Important Haircut: At the end of the film, Ada replaces her previous straightened hairstyle with braids similar to Dior's. This symbolizes her rejection of her former life and her parents' authority and her embrace of the "slut" lifestyle.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Ada and Souleiman are making out behind an abandoned building, but Ada stops him from going further because she hears footsteps. She's right, and they are accosted by an old man who make them leave.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: Issa is hell-bend on catching Souleiman, convinced he's around and responsible for all the fires. It turns out that Issa's fainting spells result in him being possessed by Souleiman's ghost, and that he is unknowingly responsible for all the crimes he's investigating.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: There are two cliques of girls in the film: the well-behaved, religious girls like Mariema who obey their parents, and the "sluts" who have more freedom but are shunned by society. At first, Mariema exists between the two worlds, appearing outwardly obedient while secretly hanging out with the girls and seeing Souleiman. After the fire, Mariema becomes increasingly discontented with obeying her family, and as word of her contact with Souleiman becomes public, Omar's family suspects her virtue and demand a virginity test. Ultimately Mariema abandons her family and the life of the virginal girls by moving in with Dior, and losing her virginity.
  • Perp Sweating: Issa is convinced that Ada knows something about Souleiman's wherabouts and had something to do with the fires, so he locks her up in order to make her talk. It doesn't work.
  • Prophet Eyes: When the women are stricken with the spirits, their eyes turn blank and white. it turns out they are being possessed by the spirits of The Boys, and access information from beyond the grave while possessed.
  • The Rich Have White Stuff: Omar's house is mostly white. In particular, Omar's luxurious, Rococco bedroom is furnished and painted entirely in shades of white, causing Ada's friends to exclaim at the luxury. This is in contrast to the homes of Ada, Souleiman, etc, which are much less clean and full of colorful furnishings.
  • Vengeful Ghost: The Boys died on their boat with some unfinished business, and will not rest until they are given proper funerals and returned the lost unpaid wages they are owed.