‘I want adults to listen to me’ this is said by Zain, a 12 year old boy, as he stands in court, he has committed a crime and is serving his sentence but has decided to sue his parents for bringing him into this world.
Nadine Labaki’s film is a harrowing and powerful depiction of a childhood lost. It is set in Lebanon and follows Zain and his day to day life as a errand boy for a local shop owner. He works all day taking whatever food is given to him at the end of the day to his family to eat. There is a scene where he looks on in desperation at the school bus and the children getting off it.
For a few hours he gets to hangout with his siblings in particular sister Sahar. Zain is protective of her, and they spend time playing drums and selling fruit juices to people. However as Sahar grows older her parents make a decision that turns Zain’s world into chaos.
Zain runs away and ends up at a fairground, there he meets Rahil an Ethiopian migrant who helps him with some food, but Rahil has a problems of her own and lives in fear of being found out that her work permit has expired and is hiding her baby from her employer. Zain ends up staying with her and ends up being a babysitter to Yonas (Rahils baby).
The relationship between Zain and Yonas is touching and beautiful. To note these are real people who are acting for the first time, so it is remarkable the performances on display here.
Zain accepts his role but things take another turn as Rahil does not come from work one day. This sets Zain on another course of action as he is now solely responsible for Yonas and has to feed, change and look after him. He tries his best but eventually he has to make a tough decision.
This is a good film, there is documentary style to it, but it is done very well that you feel immersed in everything that is happening on the screen, I was glued from start to finish. Comparisons to City of God and The Florida Project come to mind, but this stands on its own (for a start this has a better ending than The Florida Project), the film does not force a message to the viewer, the less that is said onscreen the more I got from it.
Are people not human and don’t matter because they do not have a ID card or number, does a piece of paper define our outcomes and opportunities? Are some people destined to be stuck in a social cycle inherited from their parents? Hmmm, to be discussed.
The central performance from Zain Al Rafeea is superb, he is completely mesmerising, you want to know what happens to him. The supporting cast is equally superb, the music is well done and adds weight to the film.
I would thoroughly recommend watching this, it rightly secured the Jury Prize at Cannes, should have won the Oscar, but, it’s not always about the awards for filmmakers (for most, I think) its about telling a story, and this story is definitely worth telling.