Currently in cinemas across Lebanon, this movie is a must-see to every Lebanese. It will leave some of you in tears, especially if you’ve actually lived some of the events firsthand. And if you haven’t and you actually can think for yourself, you will come out of it amazed. That was the case for most of the people in the cinema I went to tonight.
Let me start with what I saw when the movie ended. I looked around and there were grown men drying up their tears… men my dad’s age. This movie is that poignant.
Set in 1976 Lebanon during a period when people thought the civil war had ended. The story revolves around a 30-year old named Noha, portrayed by the ever brilliant Nadine Labaki – and we will be discussing her in due time. Noha is getting married to a guy she doesn’t love, in fear of becoming a spinster like her sister. And on the day that her family is preparing a dinner for her fiance’s family, she decides to meet up with her ex-lover.
The events that follow are what make this movie so real. The meeting with the ex-lover, the dinner, the family dynamics, the emotions expressed on screen, the witty dialogue…. This movie is very Lebanese. It was set in 1976 and yet it still feels very familiar. We have all had at least one scene in that movie happen in our households – regardless of how modern and classy you believe your household is. This movie brings us, with our mentality that we have come far since then, back to the ground, telling us: you are still the same people, 35 years were simply added to the date.
Apart from the heartfelt and close to home plot, the movie feels rustic. The art direction here is just terrific. I have no idea about the techniques with which they filmed this but it feels like the movie was actually filmed in those times.
Now to the acting… all the actors and actresses in this movie have apparently given their services for free, which rendered the budget a simple $0.5 million. And the acting is so brilliant, in fact, that I think the actors and actresses gave it their all. I honestly didn’t know Lebanese acting personnel had it in them to give such raw, gut-wrenching and real performances without coming off as fake.
Nadine Labaki, whom I repeat is as brilliant in what she does as brilliant goes, is terrifyingly good. Portraying the character Noha, she reminded me of a review I read by an American top critic of her 2007 movie Caramel. He said to look out for this woman, both directing and acting-wise. While she doesn’t showcase her directing chops in this movie, she more than excels in her acting. There’s one scene at her brother’s house that will leave you dumb-founded. Also the scene that follows that will leave you shaken to your core.
This movie’s title “Stray Bullet” is very poignant. And the content is even more so. It is reminding us, all of us, to beware of going back to times like the ones the movie illustrates without coming off as preachy. Some say the running time is too short. But I thought it was perfect. I wanted more. But I felt it ended right where it should have ended. It didn’t embellish the story with needless subplots. It just lets your mind fill in the blank with your own version of events.
Let me conclude by saying this: Stray Bullet will hit you straight in the heart. It’s that good and I think it’s an obligation for every Lebanese to watch it.