Approx advert and trailer run time: 25 mins
Film run time: 2hr 6m
Director Nadine Labaki deploys improvised scenes and first-time actors to heartbreaking effect in this searing, Oscar-nominated work of social realism.
Twelve-year old Zain (Zain Al Rafeea) despises his parents Souad and Selim (Kawsar Al Haddad and Fadi Yousef) for marrying his younger sister off in a venal attempt to make money. Incensed, he runs away to try his chances on the streets of Beirut, where he befriends Ethiopian refugee Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw) and her infant son Yonas. Rahil’s kindly nature provides the perfect contrast to his apathetic parents. But as Zain and his friends are caught in the machinations of shady businessman Aspro (Alaa Chouchnieh), his fury increases in the face of relentless, systematic cruelty. When he winds up in prison, Zain plots revenge by suing his parents for having him.
Labaki is unflinching in her depiction of deprivation, while her ingenious use of novice actors lends the work an air of authenticity. Al Rafeea—a refugee and illiterate at the time of production—delivers an unbelievable debut performance as the downtrodden lead. Despite moments of tenderness and humour, his righteous anger haunts the viewer long after the credits roll.