Nadine Labaki’s New Movie: Where Do We Go Now (W Halla2 Lawein) – Review

Lebanese cinematic talent has not been given much room to grow. In a country where art is the least concern, cinema has found it especially hard to take off. However, a stream of Lebanese movies has been finding its way to our theaters. Some like Nadine Labaki’s previous movie, Caramel, were a huge hit with viewers. Others were not as lucky.

But the fact remains that the Lebanese audience is hungry for movies that describe its society, its problems, its worries and woes.

And then comes Nadine Labaki’s new movie: Where Do We Go Now, with its Lebanese title: W Halla2 La wein (also in French: Et Maintenant, On Va Ou?)

The premise of the movie is quite simple – and for many Lebanese, worry-inducing for fear of overuse of cliches. The overall basis of the plot is the coexistence of Lebanese Muslims and Christians in one community, sometimes peacefully and other times not. Many, like yours truly, felt the issue was overdone. Maybe not in cinema but in everyday life. Most of us are sick of being bombarded with commentary about the struggles that face our very diverse community. But this is not the case in Where Do We Go Now.

An unnamed village during the later part of the 20th century has its only connection with the outside world in the form of a very rudimentary bridge, around which landmines had been planted and never removed. Even TV reception is very poor to the village and the movie begins with a few youngsters searching for a broadcast signal to set up a TV night for the town-folks. This village is also a religiously divided community where the Church and the Mosque are only a house apart. And more often than not, the people live together happily.

But as it is, and despite barely having any access to news from the outside world, the men of this village start to confront each other in violent ways. Little things that would pass unnoticed cause them to explode, signaling the anger they’ve been bottling in. And it is then that the few women of the village start to devise plots to keep the men busy, entertained and get their minds off being violent. These plans will vary from fake miracles to putting hashish in cakes. But these women will go to every measure possible and break every limit imposed on them by society to keep their town together. And it is for these women, representing a vast majority of our Lebanese mothers, that this movie is so aptly dedicated.

Nadine Labaki, director of the movie and starring as Amal, is astonishing as always. You, really, cannot see her eyes on screen and not be mesmerized. She’s simply entrancing, even when she doesn’t speak. Then how about when she delivers a tour de force performance as one of those women, who happens to be in love with a man from the town’s other religion. But to be perfectly honest, the accolades one ought to give Labaki are not for her acting but for her directing. Never have I imagined a Lebanese movie can turn out this good and she makes it seem effortless. Her camera shots, her focus on details, her keen eye… all of this combine to give you a cinematic experience that will entrance you.

This movie, like Caramel, features mostly unknown faces and all of them deliver as well. It is hard to believe – and yet in retrospect so evident – that such acting can come out of common people that we all meet on the street. Where Do We Go Now is a movie of such epic proportions that these “unknown” actors and actresses (mostly actresses) deliver performances that are so subtly nuanced, so exquisitely flavored and so astonishingly well-done that they would put the best actresses and actors of Hollywood to shame. Yes, I have said it.

The score of the movie is chilling and haunting and wonderfully executed by Nadine’s husband Khaled Mouzanar. The movie also features a few highly intelligent songs, written by Tania Saleh.

And let’s talk about the script. What an ingenious way to tackle the subject at hand. Not only did Nadine Labaki not fall to any cliche known to us as a Lebanese community, but she managed to introduce them in a subtle comical way that would make us laugh at ourselves for uttering or doing them in the first place. The script is so strong it will turn you bipolar. Yes, lithium is advised to be taken at the door while going in. Why? Never have I laughed so hysterically one moment and just wanted to cry the other. And then after being utterly devastated, it brings you back to laughter. The movie plays with you like a ping pong ball. And you cannot but love every moment of it.

I was talking to my friend Elia the day before we went to watch Where Do We Go Now, which happened to be the day it won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival, and she said: “Elie, I’m very cautiously optimistic about this. I’m not letting my expectations overreach because I don’t want to be disappointed.” Well, I’m pretty sure Elia agrees with me on this: Where Do We Go Now brings out things in you that you didn’t even know you had. It brings out the best in you, as a Lebanese, sitting in that cinema chair for ninety minutes. And you need the best of the best to do that. Nadine Labaki, you deserve more than the few minutes of applause the people in the movie theater gave you. You deserve a full blown standing ovation. You have done the impossible. Again. Lebanese cinema has no excuse but to overreach for excellence now. And this movie deserves an Oscar win. Cheers to our mothers.

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47 thoughts on “Nadine Labaki’s New Movie: Where Do We Go Now (W Halla2 Lawein) – Review

  1. Pingback: Award Season in 2011

  2. Nice review, im going to watch it today
    i expect me filling the theater with my laughter
    I adored Caramel and even memorized it.
    I too expect to love this movie too.

    And about Lebanese cinema, too much failed attempts can ruin the reputation of the good one. You either be up to it, or at least close, or try to reach the desired level and dont produce something not up to the level. Hollywood productions dont care about the quality anymore because they have their name among people, but here, directors and producers have to build a trust in us towards Lebanese cinema for us to support.

    Reply
  3. I just watched the movie this evening, and i was a little disappointed.
    I believe it’s a movie made for the international audience more than it is for the lebanese. Some lebanese will definitely relate to it but i didn’t.
    First, the DOP could have done a better job, coz the picture is very yellowish..
    The cliches of the muslim-christian encounters are so over used, no 10 mins of the movie pass without hearing words like “ya 3adra” or “allah”…etc
    And this priest-cheikh thing, church next to a mosque, i mean COME ON arent we done with this cliche already?
    I liked Nadine’s performance, but she kinda lost me in the scene when she yells at the men in her cafe.. Not so convincing
    The most powerful performance to me was by the character “ta2la”, i wont write any spoilers here 😛
    I agree with you about the briliant lyrics of the songs, but the music is not that haunting nor catchy, very “copy cat” of the composer.
    One more thing, the dance of the dead which the women performed at the beginning is totally irrelevant and too theatrical (may be even lame)..
    Its a movie for international festivals, where they appreciate underground-culture related films

    Reply
    • Hey Racha 🙂
      I think the yellowish tint is to give the movie an antique-looking feel, to say that this isn’t current. I’m pretty sure it’s not a misstep.
      As for the cliches, I’m not sure if they are cliches if they are part of our everyday dialogue. Even semi non-religious Christians have the word “ya 3adra” that comes out as a reflex whenever, wherever. So their use in the movie did not strike me as cliche.
      As for Nadine’s performance, I thought she was awesome in that scene :p
      And I’ve bought the album so I’ve been listening to the music today and it’s really great, especially the funeral procession music.
      Regarding the women dance, well I’ve seen one happen when a young friend of mine died. Her aunt danced something close to this. They call it “mandbe” or something.

      I guess we’ll judge on the value this movie presents to Lebanese when they watch it. It’s been doing really well in festivals. If it does well in the Lebanese population, then I guess it works for both 🙂

      Reply
    • No offense, but you couldnt be more wrong,
      I left a packed theatre last night that has floods of people with redded eyes, that couldnt kep up between the tears and laughter!

      She deserves all respect and awe for such a masterpiece! there is no other way to describe it!

      it was everything but a cliche!

      Reply
    • i totally agree with you racha.
      Totally disappointed. this is what I have:

      فيلم نادين لبكي مجموعة من الكليشيهات والاسكتشات الشعبية والتنميطات المتتابعة المسلية. مش غلط. رح ينجح بالسينما وهيدا شي جيد لصناعة مفترضة. بس فيلمها الاول احسن فنياً وملون اكتر. (ع فكرة في مشكلة بالإيقاع والألوان والمونتاج بالفيلم الحالي)

      I am also starting to get irritated from the females who save the village and co-habitation savage sectarian men. The total cliched feminism. no depth at all.

      there are also a lot of other stereotypes (as the russian girls, Adel Karam’s roles) etc…

      and the total surprise is the way the clerics are presented in a film that makes sure to say clearly that it relies on (cliched) symbolism. I didn’t understand that at all. It was a bit from Mars.

      ma3lesh Elie marre2elna yeha 🙂

      Hila

      Reply
  4. Hi Everyone,

    I live in Canada. We have the Toronto Film Festival and so far “Where do we go now” is on the top of the list. The name of Lebanon and the great movie of Nadine Labaki has been in all Newspapers, TVs, reviews in Canada.

    Mabrouk Nadine for raising Lebanon’s name up
    Rala

    Reply
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  6. Elie this one is absolutely a must watch! I’m buying it to keep! Mech ma32oul, it makes you laugh, it makes you cry and above all it made me proud! Ktir helo, smart, funny, intense, real, emotional, Lebnene w lhelo eno byonhadar marra tenye!

    Reply
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  11. I loved the debate over here:) lol .. I believe everyone of us has his own opinion after all ..
    But regardless of all your criticism ,we can’t deny that Nadine is an exotic and natural beauty
    who’s currently embodying to be a successful & a motivational woman ..by the time the Lebanese film industry is really weak,she’s becoming a legend reprising an era that is now long gone: The era of the “golden stars

    And are her movies comic? Not
    really. Are they Dramatic? Not
    really. They’re movies that can
    make me weep until my eyes
    turn red & then laugh until
    my bones crack. They’re tales
    of reality …
    And the oscars she’s winning are the biggest evidence ..

    I’m a 16 year old girl who’s terribly influenced by this outstanding director ,and i’m looking forward to portray perfectly my future film makings like she did 🙂

    Reply
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  18. I have read so many raving reviews about this movie and I’m incredibly eager to watch it. Does anyone have any idea as to how I can watch this movie? I live in the U.S. and I’m not sure if they have any screenings of the film here in California.

    Reply
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