★ ★ ★
Starring Claude Baz Moussawbaa, Layla Hakim, Yvonne Maalouf and Nadine Labaki. Written by Thomas Bidegain, Nadine Labaki, Rodney Al Haddid, Jihad Hojeily and Sam Mounier. Directed by Nadine Labaki.
Religion can be a sensitive subject, which is why I find it fascinating when filmmakers attempt to shed light or take a stance on issues surrounding it. Typically, one of two things happens–the film is horribly offensive to a large number of people, or the issue is dealt with so delicately that it fails to have any impact whatsoever. Director Nadine Labaki is guilty of the latter with her watered-down, albeit well- intentioned, account of Lebanese women caught in the crossfire of the fighting between Muslims and Christians in her film, Where Do We Go Now? However, she effectively and realistically portrays the story through the eyes of women, who are rarely represented in films of this sort.
The film begins in a small, close-knit village comprised of Muslims and Christians who work together to keep the town running efficiently. This peaceful existence changes when the villagers catch wind of the warring that has taken place between Muslims and Christians in other areas of the Middle East and the men start acting aggressively toward each other. It's then up to the women to balance everything out. The only problem is that they have to do it without the men knowing. Amale (Labaki), Yvonne (Maalouf) and Afaf (Hakim) band together with women of all ages to devise a plan and eventually trick their husbands into looking past their differences in religion.
Most of what ensues is comical and offers some insight into the role that Middle Eastern women play in the household and town itself. That being said, it sometimes trivializes the actual issue and comes off as either naive or sugar-coated. There are parts of the Where Do We Go Now? that make the situation look like it could actually be fun and silly, but then there are emotionally compelling parts that capture the severity and tragedy of the situation, making it difficult to fully invest yourself in the film or truly care about any of the characters. While Where Do You Go Now? is not quite the substantial or enlightening story it promises to be, it's refreshing and thought-provoking.
Opens Friday, 6/22 at the Main Art and Loews Star Fairlane.