Simple As Water (2021)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5

USA, 2021. , , , , . Cinematography by , , . Produced by , Megan Mylan. Music by . Film Editing by , Megan Mylan.

The toll that the devastation of war has on cultures and communities shows itself in a myriad of ways, and the one that is focused on in this touching documentary is that of the distance it places between members of a family. Oscar-winning filmmaker Megan Mylan spends time with five individuals who are doing their best to stay connected despite having been scattered from either their home or their sense of home by the Syrian Civil War, a catastrophe that one man in the film states will make it impossible for his people to raise their heads again for decades to come.

Yasmin lives in a tent in the port of Piraeus near Athens in Greece, holding on to her four children and dealing with endless bureaucratic red tape as she attempts to be reunited with her husband Safwan, who has gone ahead of her to safety in Germany.

In Turkey, Samra has five children that she is raising on her own after her husband’s disappearance, wanting to place them in an orphanage for their safekeeping but her son does not want to be parted from her.

Omar in Pennsylvania is more or less raising his younger teenaged brother, who is missing a leg after their barely surviving a bombing when they were children, the two of them trying to get through graveyard shifts and free time playing video games while worrying about their separate asylum applications.

Then we go back to Syria, where Diaa refuses to leave until she finds out what happened to her son who disappeared in Raqqa, living with her husband and her other son, who is mentally challenged.

The film ends with the satisfaction of returning to the original family, taking us to Germany where Safwan awaits the arrival of his wife and children, and we hope and pray for something good to come out of all this suffering.

The sorrows of war spread across the planet and aren’t just something you read about in the news, it’s happening to people who could be right next to you, and Mylan does a considerate and elegant job of respecting this reality while also lightening our hearts with the sight of soccer bringing children together, or the news that John Cena is a household name in some surprising corners of the globe.

The director has a gentle approach to all the figures she studies, they manage to remain private about their troubles despite our witnessing it so close, and she does not try to make them uncomfortable by forcing their candor; the film feels a bit shallow for this, it veers into hagiographic infomercial at times, but when it is touching it really accomplishes the task beautifully.

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