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Where Do We Go Now?: Light but Profound Film on Religious Sectarianism
This film tells the story of a small village in Lebanon around the turn of this century. Their only connection to the outside world is through a treacherous walk over a rickety stone bridge and they barely have access to television and radio reception. The whole village relies on two boys who frequently make the trek over to the nearest town on an old scooter, running errands and supplying the villagers with newspapers, clothes and other bits and pieces. Despite their near-total isolation, the religious sectarian violence affecting Lebanon as a whole manages to filter in, disturbing the villagers’ peaceful coexistence.
Where Do We Go Now? explores the women’s often comical attempts at keeping the peace in their village. They employ different strategies to keep the men distracted from the news thus protecting their village and families from unnecessary bloodshed.
The film’s opening scene is of a procession of women clad wholly in black, some with covered hair the others carrying crosses, making their way to the cemetery that is divided into two based on faith.
The women come as one, split off according to religion then engage in the exact same acts, mourning and grieving their loved ones, of which there are many and all of whom are men. It’s a very powerful scene that sets up the film perfectly. It asserts that shared experiences can be more powerful than shared faith and that believing in different religions doesn’t make people fundamentally different.
Now this is how you tackle a serious, highly relevant subject without preaching. This is also how you successfully, and more importantly respectfully, portray female relationships. Where Do We Go Now? gives us what is practically a war story, from the point of view of the women. War is erupting between Muslims and Christians all over Lebanon, and the women of the village are hell bent on preventing intolerant, hateful sentiments from taking root in their home despite the fact that the men are becoming exceedingly volatile. And before the words ‘war story’ send anybody off running, the film is not gory in the slightest nor does it revel in any form of brutality. In fact, the closest it gets to a physical depiction of war is the odd fistfight.
Director Labaki’s touch is all over the film and to anyone who’s seen her debut, Caramel, this is highly apparent. She excels at portraying multilayered female relationships and dealing with the interaction between people in general. The film is at its strongest when the women are figuring out a solution to their community’s problem. On the other hand, the film lacks the same emotional punch when the focus shifts to personal problems.
In general though, the film seems effortless. The strength of the characters’ relationships make the events flow very organically, succeeding in subtly showing the film’s message and side stepping any preaching. Even more impressively, the film’s cohesiveness isn’t interrupted in the slightest during the two musical interludes where the characters burst into song. It also helps that the songs are thoroughly charming and in fact the score as a whole is pretty gorgeous and fits the film perfectly. The acting is spot on and the women have a lived-in feel that really sells the story. Their relationships feel very genuine and they play off of each other perfectly; especially when they’re joking around and devising outlandish schemes to keep the guys distracted.
Where Do We Go Now? is a great, distinctly Arab film in that it deftly blends tragedy, comedy, melodrama and musical interludes. It tackles a really difficult subject, yet it is perfectly balanced as a light, crowd pleaser with an important and relevant, if rather simplistic, message.
Spooks: The Greater Good, the big-screen treatment of the long-running BBC television series, comes almost four years after the show’s exit from the small-screen. Known for its devastating twists, fans of the original show will be pleased with Bharat Nalluri’s commendable effort, although those who aren't familiar with it, might feel a little lost in the process and even a little underwhelmed with the end-result.
The adaptation sees Peter Firth reprise his role as the unflinching and emotionless MI5 chief, Sir. Harry Pearce, and the film opens with a long opening credits sequence showing Pearce taking the heat for the escape of a Middle Eastern Terrorist, Adem Qasim (Gabel) during a botched prison transfer from MI5 to the CIA. Taking full responsibility for the escape, he is soon forced to resign from service and, as a result, fakes his own suicide and goes rogue, which triggers an investigation. The man given the find out what happened to Harry is – dramatic pause – his former protégé, Will Holloway, ably played by Game of Thrones hunk, Kit Harrington.
Written by Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent, there’s a distinct sense of grittiness and realism that is often missing from similar productions across the pond in Hollywood. The tone is applied well to what is a heavy mix of traditional and modern elements of espionage films and the twists and turns are aplenty – perhaps a little too many to keep a steady track of. But the urgency behind each and every one of them can be felt throughout. Sadly, however, the film’s faults are of its own doing; produced on a relatively modest budget, it tries a little too hard to impress and it’s only when it tries to move things into the kind of grandeur and ambitious action set-pieces associated with its Hollywood peers that it falls a little short.
Firth, who has been playing the same role for the past ten years, is unsurprisingly convincing as the ex-MI5 Head of Intelligence Chief, though Harington doesn’t shake off his pretty-boy persona enough to be as affective. Visually, the film is a winner and the silvery-blue aesthetic it’s coated in perfectly communicates the murky winters of London and the aforementioned gritty tone. There’s a lot to commend in Spooks: The Greater Good, but at the end of the day it offers nothing new to the genre and it’s big-screen adaptation just needed to be more daring and step out of the confines of television.
If you can manage to wrap your head around the ridiculously far-fetched idea behind The Age of Adaline – a story of a woman who mysteriously stops aging at the age of twenty-nine and goes through periods of time as an ageless beauty – then you just might be able to find some joy and pleasure in watching Lee Toland Krieger’s handsomely-made but, seemingly formulaic romantic-fantasy feature.
The Age of Adaline tells the story of Adaline Bowman (Lively); a beautiful young woman born in the year 1908, who leads a pretty simple and uneventful life in San Francisco circa 1930. Life, as she knows it, soon changes, however, when Adaline has a near-death-experience in a terrifying car-accident; an incident which finds her mysteriously frozen in time and unable to age. Her bizarre condition soon becomes somewhat of an issue when, during the 1950’s, she becomes targeted by shady government officials, who are interested in having her head and body examined. With no other option lying before her, Adaline – in order to protect herself and her daughter, Flemming (Burstyn) from any possible harm - soon makes a run for it.
The story then fast-forwards to New Year’s Eve 2014 where we see Adaline living under a false name and her now grown-up daughter is pretending to be her grandmother (yes that happens). Things get complicated when she meets a handsome philanthropist, Ellis Jones (Huisman) who pretty quickly falls head-over-heals for the mysterious beauty. However, Adaline soon receives the shock of her life when she meets his dad, William (Ford) who is certain he knows Adaline from the time spent together in the 60’s.
Written by Salvador Paskowitz and J. Mills Goodloe, love – and the choices we make to either obtain it or run away from it – is the chosen topic of exploration, and while the movie – shot through a soft and whimsical lens - chooses to convey the story through a highly fanciful and bizarre fashion, the concept is still pretty inviting. However, the plot feels forced and you will have to work really hard to look past its mistakes. Luckily, though, the performances were not too damaging and both Lively – a surprising choice for the lead one must say – and Game of Thrones’ Huisman make for a charming and likable pairing while Ford turns in one of his most dramatic performances to date.
Buried somewhere deep underneath all of the ludicrousness and absurdity it chooses to bear on its relatively fragile shoulders, there seems to be a genuinely intriguing and worthwhile story waiting to be told with The Age of Adaline; it’s just unfortunate that it doesn’t seem to know how to tell it. Bizarre? Check. Terribly far-fetched? Check. Terrible? No. It’s acceptable and that’s not a bad way to be.