Inspired by a surreal real-life court case, Alice Diop’s film sees Senegalese immigrant Laurence Coly (Guslagie Malanda) accused of abandoning her baby daughter on a beach one night, in the tiny seaside town of Saint Omer.

Asked why she left 15-month-old Lili to die, gifted philosophy student Laurence blames witchcraft. Later, one of her former professors implies it’s culturally inappropriate for an “African” to be fascinated by Wittgenstein.


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Watching is the pregnant, Paris-based, black academic Rama (Kayije Kagame), who doesn’t seem especially happy, but is what you’d call a success (she’s super-model pretty; her most recent book is on the best-seller list; her white publishers are very pleased with her). For all sorts of reasons, Rama feels connected to Laurence.

But, by empathizing with Laurence, is our heroine guilty of erasing the rights of the baby girl?