Memory Box review – family secrets and lies from Lebanon’s darkest days | Movie

LLike their previous film and gallery collaborations, this latest work by co-directors Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (a perfect day, I Want to See) addresses the painful legacy of civil war and the ongoing unrest in their homeland, Lebanon. But while Memory Box playfully incorporates different cinematic media and textures (8mm and 16mm images, still photographs that turn into mini-animations, etc.) into its story, as previous work by the co- directors, it is ultimately an eminently accessible film. feature film about three generations living through intense trauma and emerging on the other side, mostly intact. That note of hope rings with literal brightness as the final images capture the sun rising over Beirut, the indomitable ragged city at the center of the story and is indeed another character here.

The action kicks off in modern day Montreal where teenager Alex (Paloma Vauthier) lives with her mother Maia (Rim Turki) and grandmother Teta (Clemence Sabbagh). One snowy Christmas evening, a huge box of newspapers, notebooks, tapes and photographs arrives from France, all souvenirs that Maia sent from Beirut to her friend Liza in Paris as the Lebanese civil war of the 1980s raged. (Some of the contents originally belonged to Hadjithomas.)

Afraid of the painful memories and long-submerged secrets the material might reveal, Alex is forbidden by his grandmother and Maia to look at the contents of the box. Of course, like one of Bluebeard’s wives in the fairy tale, she goes ahead and dives in. Consequently, she learns how teenage Maia (played by Manal Issa in flashbacks) clashed with her parents, became obsessed with guys and her own look, partied. and experienced joy in a time when not only were there no cell phones or WhatsApp, but a war was going on with constant bombings and militia-run checkpoints where people were frequently killed. (You could almost think Hadjithomas and Joreige constructed the film as a service to contemporary parents dealing with privileged first-world teenagers complaining about trivial issues like bad wifi or revoked car access.)

More seriously, it’s a film with a deep reservoir of empathy for all of its characters. While the older generation finds itself torn between the conventional expectations of the past and the deepest traumas of the time, the younger ones are equally confused and lost, their pain no less real even though the causes seem less dramatic. Edited with painstaking attention, the film deftly swings between time periods in a way that always drives the story forward, while the outstanding performances of the entire ensemble, especially the watchful Vauthier and the fierce Issa , anchor the film.

Memory Box hits theaters and digital platforms on January 21.

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