Costa Brava, Lebanon Movie Review

Kino Lorber
Reviewed for &, linked from Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten
Director: Mounia Akl
Screenwriter: Mounia Akl, Clara Roquet
Cast: Nadine Labaki, Yumn Yunna Marwan, Saleh Bakri, Nadia Charbel, Geana Restom, Seanna Restom
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 8/19/22
Opens: September 13, 2022 streaming

A snail-paced drama about a family that had moved from Beirut to the sticks to get away from whatever it is that city people want to get away from is difficult to sit through. There are few moments of melodrama as when then lady of the house screams that she wants to go back to Lebanon’s capital, see people, attend to her career as a singer, and protest in the streets. Mounia Akl, who co-wrote and directs, has sympathy for people who try to find peace away from the madding crowd only to be duped when the government uses their seaside community as a garbage dump. The film is based on the reality that Lebanon, like us here in America, perhaps, has a problem with trash created by a society that spends its money on crap, winding up with a polluted capital and a huge dump for its waste products. The real-life crisis came to a head in 2015 with a city’s becoming buried in uncollected trash.

The director, who lives in Beirut and New York and has a Bachelor’s in Architecture and a graduate degree in directing, contributes her sophomore feature, though she has directed a number of shorts such as the TV episode “Do Not Disturb,” looking at people from around the world who check into hotel rooms.

“Costa Brava, Lebanon,” which may be an ironic title, finds Walid (Saleh Bakri) overseeing an extended family consisting of Souraya (Nadine Labaki), a celebrated singer and activist, teen Tala (Nadia Charbel), child Rim (twins Geana Restom and Seana Restom), and hip-for-her-age matriarch Zeina (Liliane Chacar Khouryh). Zeina alternates smoking like a chimney to resetting her oxygen mask. Walid’s sister Alia (Humna Marwan), who visits the family, now lives in Colombia. Next door Tarek (François Nour) supervises a crater and a controlled explosion that fills up the landfill with blue trash bags, affecting even the running sink water which turns red. At least somebody in the family likes him, namely “seventeen-going-on-eighteen Tala, who tries to seduce him.

The family split sets Walid, who still wants to remain on the small farm away from crowds against his wife, who is a city girl intent on returning to Beirut, to combine her singing with her activist protests. An archival shot shows crowds protesting the government policies. The most vivid cinematic moments involve Walid’s imagining a huge fire that burns the entire fill in a tiresome movie that forgoes a satiric look at political malfeasance in favor of the kind of life pursued by people who escape not to Walden Pond but to conditions approaching those of a slum.

In Arabic and French with English subtitles.

105 minutes. © 2022 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C-
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – C

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By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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