The lead characters of the French thriller “In His Shadow” make apt use of their father’s saying, “Embrace your weakness.” The three siblings play on their weaknesses throughout the movie, and some get what they want while others meet a tragic end. It’ll be best to leave your sense of right and wrong aside when watching the movie because you’ll be left confused the entire time. Everyone seems right and wrong at one point or another, as they all have fair reasons to be how they are.
Written and directed by Marc Fouchard, the movie revolves around the lives of two half-brothers as they face a common tragedy and have to move on in life without the one person who kept them united. Adama and Ibrahim have remained at odds for as long as they can remember. However, it was not always like this. They used to be so close, like real brothers. Originally titled “Le Roi des Ombres,” the events of the movie unfold as a family drama where everyone has their own version of events to showcase. Nonetheless, the characters are sketched as realistically as possible, and they have a plausible back story that motivates them to be as they are.
We are introduced to Adama as a blind guy who relies on his other heightened senses to recognize and comprehend his surroundings. He is great at a game called Oware, where two players compete against each other on a board with marbles. Because he lost his eyesight in an accident when he was a child, his hearing has since increased, and he can even hear the faintest sounds from a distance. Adama is the central character of the story, as his role drives the entire plot. He is a protector by nature, despite battling a disability. Even in the accident where he lost his eyesight, he was running to protect his mother from a couple of bullies. Adama never shies away from helping his loved ones and doing anything he can to keep them safe.
As we learn at the beginning of the movie itself, everyone has their own monsters to deal with. And for Adama, his elder half-brother Ibrahim is the monster who makes his life miserable. But we’ll get to his character after a while. The connection between both of them is their father. When Ibrahim was young, Ousmane brought home another woman, and Agna, Ibrahim’s mother, had to deal with that and compromise. The household became filled with tension and stress as both women had to adjust to each other. Soon after, Adama was born, and tensions began to rise as everyone pitted the two brothers against each other. Ousmane began favoring Adama because he aligned with his father’s values and principles, whereas Ibrahim was led astray in his teenage years. This became the ultimate reason why Ibrahim hated Adama and everything he stood for.
Adama’s real cunning is revealed when he goes to the witch and gets his eyesight back. Although we don’t see any other major repercussions of Adama using voodoo magic to end the conflict that burns their neighborhood, we believe it must have taken a lot of guts on Adama’s part. He does not reveal to anyone that his eyesight has been restored and instead hatches a plan to rid the neighborhood of all criminals and gangs. He pays heed to his father’s words and indeed embraces his weakness. On the premise that nobody suspects a blind person of murder or such an intricate act, he works wonders as he saves not just himself or his family but also everyone who lives around him. He plays his plan wonderfully and gets the revenge he waited so long for.
Ibrahim is the firstborn son of Ousmane and Agna. He grew up to be an angsty teenager and an even angrier adult. When he was young, Ibrahim used to run away from home because his father had brought another woman into the house. His position in his father’s heart and his house staggered soon after. He used to get involved with shady people and shadier activities in the meantime. When his father found out about his involvement in drug deals and violence, he basically neglected him and disowned him. Ousmane stopped looking him in the eye and talking to him altogether. In Ousmane’s opinion, Ibrahim wasn’t a real man, as he turned to underhanded methods to earn money and make a name for himself. Nonetheless, Ibrahim never earned anyone’s respect but only ignited fear in everyone he knew.
Moreover, his relationship with Adama is very troubled. He kept blaming him for everything that went wrong between him and his father. Even though that wasn’t fair because it was all Ibrahim who did the wrong things and swerved away from his path, he fell into disgrace, in his father’s opinion, due to his own actions. In a more real sense, Ibrahim felt jealous of all the care, love, and respect Adama gained from their father. Ousmane always supported Adama and stood with him every step of the way.
When we examine Ibrahim’s character further, we see a person who always feels like a victim and blames people around him for everything that goes wrong. He felt that his father and his household situation pushed him into disarray, and that’s when everything went wrong. Even as he is choking his half-brother to death in the climax, he expresses how Adama made him do this. Ibrahim never took any responsibility for his actions whatsoever. Furthermore, Ibrahim’s own sister, Aissata, acknowledged the need for Ibrahim to victimize himself and play the innocent card. Such people never get ahead in life, as they don’t own up to their lives. Despite having so much power and influence among his goons and over the neighborhood, he never amounted to anything in life and compromised all his morals just for some money and more power.
A relationship between Adama and Ibrahim could never have worked because they are such different people. Their values and morals never aligned, and they viewed life differently. Despite having the same father, they proved how two people can change and adapt so drastically. To a larger extent, Adama always forgave and suffered at the hands of his elder brother because he couldn’t see. He felt weak and lesser than Ibrahim. However, once Adama regained his sight, he knew he had to stand up to Ibrahim and end the misery he had been causing.
Ibrahim, on the other hand, is the total opposite of everything Ousmane stood for. He gained power and money through all the wrong means, unlike his father, who always chose a life of dignity and respect. Even when life got tough, and Ousmane had money issues, he refused to take Ibrahim’s dirty money. Furthermore, Ibrahim’s mother and sister saw him for who he was when he lorded his money and influence over them. He tried to get them to be grateful to him because he provided for the family. His primitive thoughts and attitude restricted his growth as a character and as a person.