Sign in using your account with
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.
If you are in the mood for an uncomplicated, lighthearted and a feel-good romantic-comedy viewing, then Nancy Meyers is the one to turn to for help. Known for movies such as Private Benjamin, Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday, the 65 year-old writer-director – who is often referred to as the female version of Woody Allen – always delivers and she does so again with The Intern: a likable cross-generation comedy that is kept afloat by a dependably engaging script and a couple of amiable lead performances.
Set in New York City, The Intern is centered on Ben Whittaker (De Niro); a 70-year-old widower who has become frustrated with the retirement lifestyle and is desperate for something to fill that ‘hole’ in his now, mundane and predictable everyday existence. Luckily, his prayers are soon answered, when he comes across an advertisement for a senior internship program at an online fashion company, founded by the high-strung CEO, Jules Ostin (Hathaway).
Ben applies and is soon accepted, ultimately landing a spot as Jules very own personal assistant. However, Jules is not so keen on the idea and doesn’t really know how to deal with the unusually well-mannered senior, deciding its best to keep him at an arm’s length. Nevertheless, Ben – an extremely patient man who may not be particularly tech savvy but knows a thing or two about life– soon finds a way to get closer to his boss and offer her the much-needed support, just in time when her career and position of power is at stake.
There is something awfully comforting about watching a Nancy Meyers film, as not only are her movies pleasing to the eye –her movie sets have ended up wondering onto the pages of numerous decorating catalogues over the years – but there is also something terribly gratifying in knowing how her stories will turn out in the end. Straightforward and extremely likable, the same goes for her latest directorial effort, a movie which may not be on the same creative level as Something’s Gotta Give perhaps, but still has plenty of its own harmless charms – no matter how far-fetched they may seem – to earn a warm viewing recommendation; a stamp of approval aimed mainly at a slightly older audience.
Stuck somewhere between a buddy-comedy and a romantic drama, The Intern is not entirely flawless and Meyers seems to have had a little trouble in setting out an even tone throughout; additionally, the subplot involving Rene Russo – who plays the company masseuse– is never really looked into or explored. However, it’s the two leads that keep The Intern from falling apart as both De Niro and Hathaway bring so much heart and chemistry to their respective roles that it makes it awfully difficult not to be drawn into their white-collar world.
Easygoing, likeable and perhaps a little too safe, The Intern is not Meyers’ best work to date but, it’s reliable and entertaining. What more do you need?
Despite the familiarity in The Gift’s conventional, and somewhat predictable, stalker-thriller setup, Joel Edgerton – who writes, directs and stars as the lead – has managed to deliver a quiet and lingering psychological drama that isn’t all bad.
Tired of Chicago and its relentlessly cold weather, Simon (Bateman) and Robyn (Hall) have decided to move to Simon’s hometown of Los Angeles and make a fresh start. Purchasing a modern and uniquely designed home, Simon – a sales executive working for a computer security firm – soon begins his new corporate job, while Robyn – an interior-designer dealing with a case of mild depression – works from home and take care of their dog, Jangles.
During one of their shopping outings, the pair runs into Gordo – short for Gordon - (Edgerton); a socially awkward high-school classmate of Simon’s who wishes to reconnect with his old bud - and his wife - by showering them with gifts and unexpected house visits. Robyn is instantly intrigued by Gordo’s peculiar ways and wishes to get to know him better while, Simon is annoyed with his presence and wants nothing to do with him. Uncomfortable with the way Gordo is smothering Robyn with attention, Simon soon confronts him and asks him to leave them alone; however, Gordo is not willing to go away so easily.
The Gift marks the directorial debut for the Aussie actor, Joel Edgerton –previous screenwriting credits include 2008’s The Square and 2013’s Felony - who successfully handles the job at hand and delivers something that is both intriguing and beautiful to watch. Maintaining a sense of surprise and a hefty dose of stalker-induced tension, The Gift is far from an original piece of storytelling – Edgerton is happy to borrow from other similarly told thrillers – however, even though if the plot plays out as expected, there is still a certain element of surprise and allure to keep everyone engaged.
On the downside, however, the idea to incorporate the cheap – sometimes relatively effective – jump scares Blumhouse Production is known for, is what downgrades The Gift’s initial potential, while a couple of subplots are left totally unexplored. Luckily, the commitment from all three actors is what helps keep The Gift with its head above water at its with both Hall – as the somewhat lonely and insecure woman dealing with anxiety – and Edgerton – as the subtle and terrorising weirdo - coming out on top. Bateman, known for his deadpan humour, is given the opportunity to showcase his more dramatic side and for what it’s worth, he does so brilliantly.
Anchored by a few strong performances and an intriguing central story, The Gift is certainly not without a fault, but it’s got enough about it to leave it lingering in your mind after the credits roll.