Nadine Labaki Captivates in a riveting story of family & identity in her latest “Back to Alexandria”

There are many ways to describe someone like Nadine Labaki. As a Lebanese director, she focuses on placing a major lens on everyday aspects of Lebanese life while also tapping into political issues like war and poverty.

Then when it comes to her films, they are all about authenticity, as she makes sure to cast non-professional actors based on their personality and human characteristics.

Yet, her latest film, one she acted in rather than directed, “Back To Alexandria,” diverts away from what she is usually known for. With that, let’s take a look at why you should watch this film:

A Dive Into Alexandria

From a view of the lapping waters of the Mediterranean Sea to the intricately decorated residences that echo the thriving 1920s of old Alexandria, this film doesn’t hold back on introducing viewers to the most beautiful aspects of the coastal city.

In the film, we join Sue (Nadine Labaki), a psychoanalyst living in Switzerland who has to return to her hometown of Alexandria because her mom, Fairouz (played by French actress Fanny Ardant), had a stroke. We get to see her go back and return to this gorgeous city.

It is rare for Alexandria to become the backdrop of such a prominent international film, but in this film, it finally gets that much-needed spotlight.

Complex Mother-Daughter Relationship

Complicated barely begins to describe the relationship between Sue and her mother. The two had quite the troubled relationship of a past tinged by conflict and a clash of ideologies.

“This relationship between a mother and a daughter… There is so much depth to it and so much conflict, or at least that was the case in my family,” says Tamer Ruggli, the film’s director.

Now Sue has to return to Alexandria after not seeing her mother for 20 years, what could go wrong?

A Journey Into The Past

*spoiler alert*

To understand the relationship, we need to take a step back in time to Sue’s younger years. The film helps us dive into Sue’s past, to a time when she was young and in love. She ends up falling for the building’s doorman, sparking the start of the conflict between her and her mother.

The mother did not approve of the doorman, seeing as how he was far from her aristocratic roots. She ended up sabotaging the relationship by getting him arrested. Sue and Labaki’s twisted past has packed layers of distrust. The question is, will their reunion mend old ties?

An Unreliable Narrator

One of the film’s most unique aspects is its dependence on an unreliable narrator, Sue. In many scenes, you wonder if this is actually happening or merely a hallucination from within Sue’s deeply layered psyche.

There will be many moments when Sue struggles to differentiate between reality and hallucinations, especially as, for much of the film, the mother is accompanied by a small child, sort of dreamlike and one she doesn’t even recognize. It is a film that will get you thinking and rewinding quite a lot.

A Clash of Class

The source of all the problems and anguish between the mother and daughter is society’s clash of class. By losing the love of her life because of class, we journey with Sue as she attempts to live a life far away and against being someone from an aristocratic background.

Yet, it always seems to follow her and be part of her life.

A film that taps into such complex themes and slowly peels the layers of a complicated mother-daughter relationship brings a new and refreshing layer to Labaki herself, as it is the first time we have seen her in such a role.

To immerse yourself in this melodrama, you can check out the film at Zawya Cinema, which will be running until June 11.

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