After a selection in Cannes earlier this year, Lebanese director Nadine Labaki’s new film “Where do we go now?” is finally out and about in France. Films are released on Wednesdays here and I am surprised that it is released in France before it is in Lebanon (date of release: 22 sept.). Labaki is a young and promising film director/actress who impressed me with her first film Caramel. Caramel’s women were subtle and their characters just felt right. I remember it as a touching movie.
“Where do we go now?” is also about women. Women in a mountain village who fight against the sectarianism of their husbands and sons (Christians against Muslims). The women are strong, humorous and smart. Young or old they are remarkable women and Labaki’s feminist streak is always welcome in the film world! The women use all kind of tricks to unite the men – I will not detail those in case you would like to see the film – while more serious issues about religious divides and the violence that follows are depicted.
If, like me, you do not like to hear critiques of films or books before discovering them yourself, you might want to skip what follows!
“Where do we go now?” is filmed very well, the acting is impeccable within the script and the idea of uniting women for a second time but in a different setting is an idea I quite like. Yet, there are a few elements that I also disliked. The first was that the divide between Christians and Muslims living in the same village (a cohabitation not very common in Lebanon as most villages or cities are predominantly of one religious community) is introduced abruptly. If Labaki wants to bring up the issue of sectarianism, a more subtle, mounting tension would have been more efficient and also, more credible.
Also, the narrative lacks coherence and this is partly due to the fact that Labaki is too present as an actress. Labaki’s character is the owner of a café and the film gives the impression that her love story with the worker renovating the café will be central to the narrative. However, halfway through, she switches focus to follow the tragic events a mother from the village is confronted with. This mother becomes the main character and really is the most gripping one. Finally, the pace of the story is uneven as we are rushed from one event to another, without enough time to fully know the village and its inhabitants.
Overall, the film deserved to be a little more polished and could have been much more striking and anti-sectarian in that sense. This being said, I think the film may appeal to different sensibilities, especially in Lebanon where, different generations might relate in various ways to Labaki’s work. Labaki is still bringing forward a new genre and I am sure we will soon discover other new films of hers as potent as Caramel.