Capharnaüm [2018] ★★★

It took one film back in 2007 to put Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki on the international map permanently. Now she’s back with a new film that’s unlike anything she’s done before. “Capharnaüm” is Labaki’s third feature film as a director, and she shot it in documentary-like fashion, making us believe her “actors” aren’t playing characters at all but going about their business as if a camera wasn’t present. That’s no easy feat, and even if the film trips on its ambition at times, it’s still a tremendous achievement for a filmmaker who has a keen eye for detail. To avoid spoilers, I’ll only say that the film focuses on a young child (brilliantly played by Zain Al Rafeea) who decides to sue his parents for bringing him into this world. Labaki uses flashbacks to explore the dark side of the child’s environment: the miserable conditions in which he was forced to live in, his relationship with his parents, and his everyday life in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Lebanon. All this can make you squirm in discomfort at times, mainly because it feels real. Scratch that. It is real. These are real people with real problems, and it’s so easy to relate to their feelings and their actions at every turn of this gripping drama. There are no real “villains” here, just victims of terrible conditions. And just like real life, what happens is almost impossible to predict. “Capharnaüm” has the power to shake you. It’s as powerful as a punch to the gut.






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