Film Review – Where Do We Go Now?


Title: Where Do We Go Now?
Director: Nadine Labaki
Starring: Nadine Labaki, Leyla Fouad, Claude Msawbaa
Release Date: Out Now

Set in modern Lebanon, Where Do We Go Now? is a story about the fragile relationship between Christians and Muslims who live side-by-side. The peace that previously existed between the two communities quickly unravels as the sectarian violence that is ravaging the outside world spills over and engulfs the village.

The film concentrates on the role of the women of both sides as they go to comical lengths to disarm the men and avoid religious conflict, from breaking the village’s only television set, to staging an apparition from the Virgin Mary.

The film is, among many things, an ode to women and motherhood. As the men in the village submit to mindless armed combat, their wives show true cunning and bravery by inventing unique ways to distract their husbands and to discourage them from fighting. Indeed one of the most wrenching scenes in the film depicts Layla (Leyla Fouad), a Christian mother who pretends her son has the mumps in order to conceal his killing from the community and avoid adding more fuel to the flames of war.

For such dense subject matter, Lebanon native director Nadine Labaki manages to create a film that is wholly enjoyable to watch. Serious scenes are juxtaposed alongside moments of light-hearted satire and cheerful musical interludes are playfully dotted throughout.

The light-heartedness in the film does not detract from or trivialise the important messages that Labaki is attempting to convey, however. The film is a powerful condemnation of religious warfare and illustrates the tragic wastefulness of it with sheer dexterity. Labaki does a remarkable job of highlighting the similarities between Christians and Muslims. At times, the lines of the divide are blurred beyond recognition, allowing viewers to observe the conflict with an unblemished lack of prejudice.

By the end of the film, the audience ultimately is left to ponder the idea of what our world would be like if more women were in positions of power. More peaceful and harmonious, Labaki seems to suggest. The women are undoubtedly the unsung heroes of this story but Labaki could be faulted for her polarized portrayal of the village society: the women are essentially the level-headed moral figures whilst every male character, without exception, appears to be impulsive, bestial and at times just plain idiotic.

Nonetheless, Where Do We Go Now? is a highly enjoyable 110 minutes of cinema. With a pleasingly laid-back soundtrack, charming cinematography and a humorous script that is brought to life by the vibrant cast of home-grown actors, it is nothing if not a joy to sit back and watch events unfold on the dusty Lebanese plains.

In a Nutshell: Thought-provoking and emotionally charged, but with a light-hearted edge.

by Philippa White