“Down by Love” (2016)

Down by Love is a French prison movie directed by Pierre Godeau. The story is about the love story between Jean, a prison director, and Anna, a young prisoner. That film is based on the true controversial story of Florent Gonçalves and Sorour Arbabzadeh. The real prison director has published a book about their relation in 2012.

Sorour Aebabzadeh was convicted of participation in the murder of a young Jewish that she seduced in order to entrap him. Her accomplices were part of a group named “Gang of Barbarians”. They wanted to kidnap him and steal his money because they were thinking that he could be rich just because he was Jewish…

The young girl had a personal and medical background. She was very bad at school and she was in bad company. She loved to please and seduce men. She was like a “predator”.


Pierre Godeau approaches a difficult subject about the gloomy and forbidden love between a mentally ill and a complexed mature man. What a strange and good story it was… But the director did not take up the challenge. He had the opportunity to realize a great disturbing film but he has just made a vain and ordinary love story… We don’t get the perversity of the characters, especially Anna’s one, who is supposed to be an attractive and a dangerous “predator”.

The girl is played by Adèle Exarchopoulos, famous for his lesbian role in Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013) directed by Abdellatif Kechiche. I love her performance in that film but not in Godeau’s one. I think that a lot of directors choose that actress just because she became famous with her controversial role in Kechiche’s film but that most of them do not know how to direct her. So they show her just as she was in Blue Is the Warmest Color, and they benefit the fact that she is famous for her naked performance in the film to show unnecessarily her body. And that is the case in Down by Love.


Guillaume Gallienne, who is an actor of the Comédie-Française and who plays Jean, is even worse! He has not at all the stature of a prison director. He totally lacks credibility. Pierre Godeau failed to shoot them together. When Anna and Jean talk together, he films them with simple and boring shot/countershot, and the actors seem to read their text…

Down by Love is full of romantic commonplaces. It is too shame because the pitch was very good, and the director has got the chance to shoot in a real prison, in the La Santé Prison in Paris. It is too bad that the film is not successful as the movie sets.

Capture d_écran 2017-03-14 à 22.24.52

Down by Love (2016)
Director: Pierre Godeau
Writer: Pierre Godeau, based on Défense d’aimer by Florent Gonçalves
Starring: Guillaume Gallienne, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Stéphanie Cléau…
Running time: 1h50
Genre: Social

The Affair of the Gang of Barbarians

The Affair of the Gang of Barbarians (“l’affaire du Gang des Barbares” in French) was a kidnapping and torture case that shocked France because of its antisemitism and the vicious nature of the crime committed.

A total of 27 people were accused as implicated in the crime. The leader was Youssouf Fofana, convicted and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 22 years.

Photos of the suspects and the victim

On January 20, 2006, Ilan Halimi, a young Jewish, was lured by an attractive seventeen-year-old named Sorour Arbabzadeh but knowned as Yalda, to an apartment block in a Parisian suburb. There Halimi was tortured by the youth gang and kept prisoner for twenty-four days… They beat him and burned him with acid… They tried to extract a ransom of 450 000 € from his family.

Ilan Halimi was finally found naked, handcuffed and bound with a nylon rope to a tree about 37 metres inside a woodlot near a railway station, on February 13, 2006. It was reported that more than 80% of his body had been burned with acid, probably to destroy evidences). The young man died en route to a hospital…

The leader of the gang, Youssouf Fofana, and the girl used as bait were arrested together on February 23 in Abidjan and extradited to France on March 4, 2006.

Arrestation of Youssouf Fofana in Abidjan in 2006

One thought on ““Down by Love” (2016)

  1. A horrid story, which I don’t think I could see portrayed in film.
    You’ve described the scenes, characters and filmmaker’s treatment quite well, and do not seem sold either. A good analysis of a film to be missed.

    Liked by 1 person

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