x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Where Do We Go Now? is an engrossing female drama

The acting is a little uneven, with a cast of professionals as well as newcomers, but the story remains heartfelt throughout.

Nadine Labaki in her new film
Nadine Labaki in her new film "Where Do We Go Now?" Courtesy Les Films des Tournelles

Director: Nadine Labaki
Starring: Nadine Labaki, Leyla Hakim, Claude Baz Moussawbaa
****

The director, writer and actress Labaki's second film after her impressive debut Caramel has already won an armful of awards, including Best Narrative Film at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival last month and the Academy Award-predictor Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. As with Caramel, Where Do We Go Now? features an ensemble of winsome female characters, portrayed by a mix of professional and non-professional actors, in a tragicomedy about relationships, religion and family.

Dealing with the tricky subject of Muslim and Christian relations in Lebanon, Labaki wisely sets her tale in an unnamed fictitious village, where for years the population has happily coexisted. That equilibrium is threated when news of escalating violence reaches the village and the women decide to take action to stop the men going to war. The mayor's wife (Maalouf) fakes seeing a miracle but can't resist manipulating the situation to her own ends. Labaki plays the owner of a cafe where much of the action occurs, while at one point a gaggle of Ukranian dancers make a timely arrival. The main drama, however, revolves around a bereaved mother (Moussawbaa) hiding the death of her son. Throwing in the occasional song, the action is tonally uneven, but it never stops being heartwarming and engrossing.