Where Do We Go Now?
Directed by: Nadine Labaki Cast: Nadine Labaki, Yvonne Maalouf, Leyla Hakkim, Anjo Rihane Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: May 18, 2012 (Chicago)
PLOT: In hopes of saving the Muslim and Christian men from ultimately destroying each other, Amale (Labaki) spearheads a wild plan to distract and disarm the men with the help of other wives and mothers in the village.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Fans of foreign dramas, especially ones that don't boast recognizable actors or quick pacing.
This quiet journey of Where Do We Go Now? begins with a march. The mothers and wives of the film's center village are walking through the cemetery of their sons and husbands, who have become victims in the generation-long religious moments of strife. The graves are placed in long rows on the barren flat land. But as an outsider recognizes about the gap that separates the Muslim men from the Christian men, "Even dead, they are divided."
Where Do We Go Now? works best when it is showing us this village and its many characters. Agreeing with the idea that comedy is the better way to get someone to pay attention than drama, the film does grab viewers with its quiet presentation of life in this small village, where watching TV is an event, or where the smuttiest thing in the whole community is a pin-up pinball machine. While there are so many side characters/villagers in this story, eventually you do feel like you know them enough, even if it's just with two lines of dialogue.
These chapters of the film, which play out during the first and second act, are almost deceptively light, as the rest of Where Do We Go Now? can be really heavy (if not stressful) with the matters at hand. Though we see these residents live amongst each other, we also know of the fragility of such brotherhood. Like the women in the story (whom we ultimately side with when the third act goes in a wild direction), we fear the unpredictable explosiveness that can happen with the wrong word, or the wrong mistake.
Lightening things up, Where Do We Go Now? receives a kick of enthusiasm for the story from its love for music, as radiated in three different sequences. Though the scenes' placement may feel too random, they do provide a pretty melody to the audience as well.
The factor that will inevitably divide the audiences of Where Do We Go Now? (and certainly cause a gap between filmmaker and viewer) is the film's third act, which I won't spoil. Labaki has spun up a lighthearted (and not possible) solution that it can't cleanly get away with, despite the enormous amount of hope it provides. In the process, men (and Russian women) are shown in negative light, in a way that's like taking a step back. It's something that distracts from the scene's bigger purpose.
"Where do we go now?" are the last words spoken in the film, after a wild journey that traverses through the sad, the funny, the ridiculous, and ending up at the sad again. While this movie does make a point with its final act, witnessing the exaggerated center scheme isn't as fulfilling as simply looking in on the small Lebanese village that co-writer/director Labaki has so organically created.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10