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Louis’ Review of ‘Where Do Go Now?’

Where Do We Go Now? is a film about how tragic life can be when centuries old disputes are allowed to go unexamined. In a remote Lebanese village, the population is evenly divided between Christian and Muslim. They get along in relative peace and harmony. That is, until events outside the village brings old discords back to the surface, much to the horror of the long suffering women of the town.

The opening shot is of the women talking about their long suffering, moving as a single group, Muslim and Christian alike. It becomes apparent the graveyard is their destination, and it too is divided along religious lines. As the movie begins, we discover the two groups living in relative harmony, religion being essentially a non issue. A chance radio broadcast telling of fighting between Christians and Muslims elsewhere finds the women desperately trying to stop the men in town from finding out. Despite their best efforts, the men do discover the truth and begin to fight among themselves along similar religious lines. The women, in turn, frantic to stop the oncoming bloodshed, devise several plots to stop the men from violence. Even going as far as to recruit exotic dancers to redirect the men’s minds from violence to sex.

This is a film with a bit of an identity crisis, and there are several odd moments through the film.  In an attempt to lighten the mood, Director Nadine Labaki chooses to include musical numbers. They sit in stark contrast to the harshness and raw emotion on display elsewhere. In one scene, we are treated to emotional devastation of a woman discovering her son is dead. Later, we are treated to a nearly comic sing along about making cakes. Both sections work, but are so far apart in style as to almost be from separate films. While trying to show that life can still be joyful, even in the face of hopeless tragedy, the disparity between the two noticeably mismated. The sugary sweet moments those plays in stark contrast to the raw emotion are too far apart to have in the same film. It would have been better served to either be light comedy or heavy drama, because the mix doesn’t work well. It goes too far into raw emotion that overemphasizes the crushing weight of the situation to allow the lighter moments to be properly enjoyed.

Despite this, this film is an interesting examination of centuries old disputes among people who no longer have any real reason to care about the original dispute.  The women of this town, having buried their fathers, husbands and sons, wish it to stop. It has been suggested elsewhere that this is an attempt to show what women in charge would be like, but I prefer to think of it more as women tempering the worst, and most unnecessary, behavior of the men they love. When direct pleading fails, in one moving scene a woman declares “Do you think we exist simply to mourn you?” to the men fighting, the women change tactics to a more subtle and manipulative sort. The busload of exotic dancers from the Ukraine wind up in the village, paid to be there by the women but telling the men their bus broke down, serve as only a temporary distraction. The old fighting begins anew. As the plots are hatched and tried, the tempers only worsen and the fear of violence only deepens. There is an undercurrent of desperation to their actions, because they understand it’s not if violence breaks out, but when.  And far too many fathers, husbands and sons will die. What these plots are, and how they play out is the centerpiece of this film.

While the individual parts of it are well done, it does not fit together well as a whole.