Film Review – Capharnaum (2018)

Title – Capharnaum (2018)

Director – Nadine Labaki (Caramel)

Cast – Zain Al Rafeea, Yordanos Shiferaw, Boluwatife Treasure Bankole, Kawsar Al Haddad, Fadi Yousef

Plot – 12 year old Lebanese boy Zain (Al Rafeea) sets out to sue his negligent parents after his sentenced to five years imprisonment for a violent crime he committed.

“Your words pierce my heart. I no longer want to see you”

Review by Eddie on 18/09/2019

Capharnaum is the little foreign film that could, becoming the highest grossing Arabic and Middle-Eastern film of all-time at the world wide box office as well as garnering attention with prestigious nominations for the likes of the Cannes Palme d’Or and a spot in this year’s Oscar nominations for Best Foreign film.

It’s an incredible feat for a film with a budget of $4 million dollars, a lead in the form of the astonishingly good child actor Zain Al Rafeea (who had never acted previously) and the direction of Lebanese actress/director Nadine Labaki and when you consider just how hard hitting and confronting Capharnaum is, its story of success is even more incredible.

Pulling no punches and showcasing the bleak and horrifying situations that exist in the country of Lebanon, here centred around Al Refeea’s 12 year old but wise above his years Zain and his quest to sue his atrocious parents for neglect after he finds himself impressed for a crime that we begin to understand more of thanks to the films flashback nature, Capharnaum is a unique, eye-opening and emotionally strong drama that will stick with you long after the credits have rolled.

Putting the weight of the films ambitions on the shoulders of Rafeea, Labaki has here found herself in charge of one of the most fully-formed and carefully considered child performances of the decade, with Zain a multi-layered child on the verge of teenage hood that is dealing with situations that he should never have found himself in.

Tackling the poverty of Lebanon, the racism, the arranged marriage issue and the over-crowded prison/justice system, Capharnaum’s character study of an unfortunate child harbors much within its narrative surrounds, that it becomes a film filled the heart and soul of a country that finds itself dealing with more than its fair share of problems that deserve the discussion that will come from watching a film as memorable as this.

There’s been many a film that tackles a child placed in a situation that is beyond their years and experience, such as the great Australian backed Lion or foreign gem The Rocket but Capharnaum excels in this area with Zain’s journey from mischievous street kid to makeshift parent figure a harrowing one and one that feels natural and plausible thanks to Rafeea’s turn and Labaki’s direction, that is enhanced by some stunning cinematography by Christopher Aoun and moody score by Khaled Mouzanar, that helps make it a real cinematic delight in scale and scope despite the intimate nature of the story at the films heart.

By the film’s heart-warming final frame, you’re well aware that what you’ve watched is a beautiful human tale, filled with despair, loss and sadness but also scattered love, laughter and kindness, a rare type of film that will stay relevant for many years still yet to come.

Final Say –

This critical lauded and heavily awarded foreign drama deserves its raft of high praise that currently sees it sitting pretty in the highly sought after IMDB Top 250. With a truly mezmorizing performance from its young star Zain Al Rafeea front and centre, Capharnaum may be tough viewing at times thanks to its subject matter but a film you won’t be able to turn away from or forget in a hurry.

4 ½ ice cubes out of 5   

6 responses to “Film Review – Capharnaum (2018)

  1. I saw it for the first time when I hadn’t heard about it much, and I was left speechless.

    Coming from Mumbai, I am not surprised to find just gripping poverty and the choices that parents make to ensure their children’s future. This movie built on it, as it handled how the cycle repeats itself.

    The father arranges his daughter’s marriage thinking it is for the best. Zein hates him for it.
    Zein gives away the kid he is supposed to take care of, but can’t do it anymore, thinking it is for the best.

    Zein becomes the father but then does something to try and change it.

    Amazing movie.

    • So glad you fell in love with it like me mate, what a powerful story and so well told. I really hope many many more people find a copy to watch.
      E

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