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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Nathalie Baye is cast as Esther, the head seamstress at Dior’s Avenue Montaigne workshop in Paris. An acerbic character with little patience for the sensitivities of others, she’s about to retire after devoting decades of her life to the job. It’s cost her all hope of a personal life – she’s fallen out with her daughter – and after finishing up, she’ll be facing a blank diary. But shortly before the decisive day, a random incident alters everything. She is robbed in the subway. Resigning to the fact she’s never going to see her handbag or its contents again, she’s outraged and relieved when the thief shows up at the workshop and returns it.
Heartened by this unexpected act of remorse, she becomes curious. The robber, Jade (Lyna Khoudri), is a 20-year-old from an Arab ghetto on the city’s edge and her delicate good looks come with a vocabulary as salty as Esther’s own. Over a combative dinner, she decides to give the girl a break by offering her an internship at the workshop.
From this point, Ohayo’s script flirts with the sentimental but never quite succumbs. The entertainingly caustic dialogue quickens the pace and sharpens the tone. Jade’s friends and neighbours in the ghetto are a colourfully outspoken bunch and Jade doesn’t hold back.
The heart of the film is the workshop where the seamstresses carefully unroll, cut and drape the precious fabric that is their stock-in-trade, absorbing its texture through their fingertips. After this film, you’ll never again regard them as fashion’s bit players.