Sony // 2011 // 102 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // September 23rd, 2012
Here's to the ladies who launch...a clever counteroffensive.
For the women in a small town in Lebanon, trouble is brewing. While isolated from most of the region (the lone radio appears broken and the sole TV gets a weak, mostly scrambled signal), they are still concerned that the violence reaching out across the Middle East will come "home," so to speak, turning their husbands against each other. You see, our village is more or less evenly made up of Christians and Muslims, and these ladies have been struggling to keep the sectarian clashes elsewhere from darkening their relatively peaceful doors. So they take to radical steps, like interrupting news broadcasts and messing with the all-important antenna. Unfortunately, a number of events lead to a confrontation between the sects, forcing the gals to try something a bit more...outrageous. Their solution? Well, let's just say that a semblance of peace can be procured thanks to the age-old ideals of sex...and drugs.
Where Do We Go Now? is a tantalizing tightrope folly. It invests the war-torn tendencies of the always-explosive differences between Christians and Muslims with a kind of humor and light-handed deftness. Director Nadine Labaki, who plays one of the town's wily women, hopes to show that eons of hatred can be sidetracked if particulars take the place of philosophy. There is also a slight anti-man message here, guys getting all the blame for why something as silly as religious difference ignite into all-out bloodshed. Indeed, the women are seen as problem solvers while the dudes...well, let's just say some old chauvinism dies hard within some parts of the planet. So what we have here is a balancing act, the seriousness of the subject matter weighed against the increasingly goofy ways these women deal with the situation. Luckily, Labaki finds the right combination of insight and idiosyncrasy to make it work.
This is a parable, more than anything else, a way to show how almost all hate is homegrown. Since there is no overriding authority demanding disparity between these religious groups, we see the influence of such outside instigations as crucial to the concept. It's like the old line -- prejudice is not inherent, it has to be taught -- taken to weirdly whimsical ends. Most of the time, we buy it. Labaki makes sure not to turn this into an universal statement. She wants us to see how this specific place handles this particular problem. One understands it would not work in general, or even in reality, but it's intriguing to think that we could avoid a huge amount of pain and suffering if potential soldiers had something better to do with their time. Where Do We Go Now? may not be offering a true solution, but watching how these people avoid the inevitable turns into an engaging, entertaining tale.
Visually, the movie looks great. The 2.35:1, 1080p high-definition transfer is excellent, providing deep contrasts, excellent detail, and a very colorful backdrop. Sure, the village is a collection of earthy tones, but for the most part, the image is vibrant and alive. Sonically, it's much the same. The DTS-HD MA 5.0 lossless soundtrack offers crystal clear dialogue, lots of spatial ambience, and a real feeling of place. Yes, the movie is in Arabic with English subtitles, but both come across expertly here. As for added content, we are treated to a very informative commentary track (featuring Labaki and composer Khaled Mouzanar), a decent making-of, a musical score featurette, and a 40-minute Q&A taken from a screening with the aforementioned and producer Anne-Dominique Toussaint. All make for intriguing supplemental viewing.
You have to give Where Do We Go Now? credit. It takes a potentially incendiary topic and treats it with wit and gentle wisdom. It make not offer clear cut answers, but it sure spurs some engaging food for thought.
Not Guilty. An interesting anti-war allegory.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.0 Master Audio (Arabic)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13