Wow. That was REALLY heavy.
I’ve been obsessed with seeing as many of Villeneuve’s films as possible after I finally watched Arrival a while ago, and I have yet to be disappointed. The Man really understands dramatic tension and how to hold the audience in his hand until he wants to close his fist and trap them. He’s a master of his craft, and while this isn’t my favorite film of his, it may have the most weight to it, with a lot to say and a heavy dose of gut-wrenching brutality to drive the point(s) home.
When a middle eastern woman living in Canada dies, her will is read to her twin children and they are each given a letter and a mission. The daughter, Jeanne, is to find her absentee father (whom she had presumed dead) and deliver said letter. Her brother, Simon, had the same mission, but his is addressed to the brother they never knew they had. What follows is a journey to their mother’s homeland, as they seek to out together her past (told in parallel fashion via flashbacks). And in doing so, they reveal their own pasts, as well as their presents and futures.
The less said about the plot from there, the better. If you’re up for it, you should take the same journey as the twins. It is fascinating (albeit occasionally slow), violent and merciless. Especially the bus scene. Dear God.
Villeneuve is hitting on not only the confusing brutality often present in life itself, but the sheer senselessness of hating others based on their religion, or maybe even reasons you can’t rightly name. The film touches on the horror of abduction and child soldiers, something that I cannot wrap my mind around. But finally, it speaks to the healing power of love and forgiveness, even when it seems absolutely unfathomable.
This is a very, very powerful film, but one that I don’t think I will be able to watch again.