Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
Elia Suleiman dips into his own biography to tell a rich, emotional story about his life and family background. His narrative flits through time as he begins first with scenes of his father (played here by Saleh Bakri) experiencing the Israeli annexation of Nazareth in 1948, and the violence he barely survived as a resistance fighter in that struggle. Years later, his father’s health is compromised by his experience but he’s still the dominant patriarch of a small household comprised of his wife and son, their lives maintaining a sense of daily routine despite the uncomfortable situation they find themselves in, living as a minority within Israel’s borders and not in the territories beyond it. It’s not long before the main character is a teenager and then, at the end, an adult who comes home to visit his aging mother; by the time we get to his adulthood we have fallen entirely in love with Suleiman’s family, with their bright kitchen and warm living room that maintain a sense of cohesion in the face of the political nonsense that seeks to fracture them. The humour with which the memories are related feels almost as if Jacques Tati or Chaplin were directing them, a kind of bent irony that contextualizes the negative reality that Suleiman experiences rather than belittling it. His curious imagination, which he displays in the scenes involving his younger self, eventually leads to him finding charismatic ways to tell his personal tale while retaining such a deep feeling for his most humorous characterizations (like the aunt whose lentils go straight in the garbage), so that no one comes off as a caricature in this wonderful movie.