Where do we go now? – film review

Posted: July 18, 2012 by J in Movie review

Nadine Labaki, she’s the goods. Caramel was a film to make us richer on the inside. Now this new film is another gift to the world.

Set in a small village in Lebanon, where Christian and Muslim try to live side by side in peace, the film is about religious tension and harmony. It traces the intricate dance performed by the village women of both faiths to keep their men from bloodshed.

Their tactics are by turns comical, ridiculous, heart-breakingly brave, and breathtakingly bold. This really is a film to make you laugh and cry. There’s plenty of inventiveness in the plot to keep you interested and delighted.

Apart from the story, the film gets a lot of mileage out of its women characters, whose earthy humour and colourful crudeness make for many funny scenes. The priest and imam get some great lines too. For those who don’t know her, Labaki stars in as well as directs her films. This time she’s not as dominant as in Caramel: it’s very much an ensemble film.

While the film deals with real-life issues, the story-telling is not altogether realistic in style. The neat division into peace-loving, courageous women and war-loving, reactionary men is a bit stylised, as are the enlightened priest and imam characters. But we are persuaded to accept these oversimplifications for the sake of a good story:  they give space for the convolutions of the story to unfold without becoming chaotic and unresolvable.

There are fun musical-style scenes along the way, with a touch of Bollywood influence. But just a few. The music is pretty good, actually.

The film is beautifully shaped, gradually gaining tension, which is relieved by plenty of lighter moments and the songs. It works up to the final punchline which really does pack a punch. Even if the first half does not always engage us emotionally, in hindsight you can see how it laid the foundation for an eye-opening climax. Nadine Labaki gets us to a place where we care by the end, we love these people. As a movie experience it’s ultimately quite satisfying. You go away a bit stunned, actually, with plenty to think about and chew over. Like about what it means to love your neighbour. And what price you’re willing to pay to maintain that love.

A movie that has plenty to interest and move and challenge thoughtful evangelicals.

Just saw it at the cinema, feeling grateful to Labaki for this new gift. I’ll be waiting for her next story.

See it at the Palace Norton St Leichardt.

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