Almost everything is harsh here: the rugged desert landscape, the bitter war breaking out as Algerians fight France (and French settlers) for independence, the payback rules governing village feuds. In such an environment you have to wonder whether half a tube of condensed milk and the promise that nomads will welcome a stranger can be relied on. Viggo Mortensen is excellent in conveying the toughness needed, while retaining decency and sensitivity. The film expands the Albert Camus short story on which it is based (‘The Guest’ published in the volume Exile and the Kingdom). In the short story Daru releases the prisoner after the first night, giving him the two options about directions to take, but faces a more serious threat of retribution. The movie somewhat changes the stark terms of Camus’ existentialist philosophy but is still a convincing account of a man who doesn’t want to have to take sides.