Movie Review – Where Do We Go Now? (2011)

Where Do We Go Now? (French: Et maintenant on va où?), 2011.

Directed by Nadine Labaki.
Starring Claude Baz Moussawbaa, Leyla Hakim and Nadine Labaki.


SYNOPSIS:

When religious tensions rise in a small village populated by both Muslims and Christians, a group of Lebanese women attempt to appease the situation.


Where Do We Go Now? A question most apt in this modern world of ours, in all respects. Nadine Labaki has crafted a quality film that grasps themes relating to both the storyline of the film and themes everyone must come across in their lives. It asks questions that, even though they’ve been asked before, are bought across in a fresh way.

Sometimes the turns the film makes are headlong into a hedgerow of silliness (phrase copyright Matt Smith 2012). At certain points the film is explained to the audience through the medium of musical numbers. And I’m… not exactly sure why.

The film, in every other aspect, is a good comedy-drama about life in a secluded village, which asks questions about religion and togetherness and family, but the tone takes a turn for the worst when some lyrics, completely lacking in cleverness or complexity, interject. It’s not that the songs are in bad taste. It’s just they’re pointless. They sum up all the action in a rather basic fashion, almost as if it’s just in case a child is watching.

One of the songs tells the story of a potential romance, and it’s in that spirit the film begins. It seems it’s going to be a potential Romeo and Juliet type of shindig, where two religions can come together in the name of love. But, thankfully, the film expands from that to be about the themes mentioned above.

Unlike a typical romcom, the film doesn’t pick anyone’s side, though it does depict the men as stupid, foolhardy and headstrong and the women as wise, patient and willing to compromise. Which, if we’re being honest, is true in most respects. But let’s stop before I start off on a bad comedian shtick. Imagine the annoyance of me actually saying this all to you. I mean, I have a strange looking face, display little emotion and have a nasal, monotonous voice. I’m like Disneyland’s unfinished Ray Romano experience.

And as with a bad comedian (see how I’m linking everything together?), this film provides some gentle humour, but no real belly laughs. It’s more drama than comedy and, if it wanted to be funnier, it needed to focus more on personal aspects of the characters as opposed to sticking to the big themes.

But an advantage to the big theme focus is that you don’t have to be an expert on them. I, for one, am vaguely aware of the history and linkage between religion and warfare. But the film keeps it more about acceptance, which means the divide could’ve been religious, it could’ve been financial, it could’ve been what your favourite Skittle is (red, as everyone in the film would eventually decide).

Unfortunately, the film does occasionally step into soap opera territory. The scene where some people are pretending one person is in their room, but really isn’t (if I explain in more detail, I’d have to put an annoying capitalised SPOILER ALERT! in front of this paragraph) plays out very much like the Fawlty Towers episode where Basil pretends his wife’s in bed, but she really isn’t. ‘Oh, he’s ill!’ ‘Well let me see him at least, see if he’s doing alright.’ ‘You can’t, it’s contagious.’ ‘I’ll be fine, I’ve had my shots.’ ‘But he’s got an exotic disease called… exotica… diseasica.’ Which is actually a name of a nightclub in my hometown, probably.

After this whole debacle with the room, we’re supposed to feel a lot of emotion after a Sad Incident. And, while I felt a twinge of sadness, I didn’t feel everything I felt I should (this sentence makes sense, just read it back, underline your favourite bits with a FELT-tip pen. God, I’m hilarious). I’m not sure if this lack of emotion was down to the direction, the acting or my part-robot brain. I’ve calculated that it was probably down to the direction. The best friend of the person who has something sad happen to them just never seems to struggle afterwards, even though their life’s just been turned upside down.

The acting as a whole is good. Nothing revelatory (unfortunate in a film featuring religion, as the reviews just write themselves), but you definitely understand where each character is coming from and the writing lends itself well to explaining why characters do what they do (besides the aforementioned soap opera-tinged sections).

The choices the female characters make at the end sum up the main question asked in this film. The divide sometimes found between Christians and Muslims is used as its framework, but the film is really about asking what you’d love more if forced to make a choice – your family or your religion. When it comes down to it, the choice is made obvious.

For all the small negatives in this film, it starts off well and makes some decent points. The last twenty minutes are strong, even if it does end with a hopeless, vaguely nihilistic tone that isn’t in keeping with the rest of the film. But I guess that was just another point being made by a film all about the big themes of human life and how they affect our lives together.

Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★

Matt Smith