Receiving a 15-minute standing ovation as well as the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Nadine Labaki’s neorealist fable centres on a child attempting to divorce his parents.
Twelve-year-old Zain stands in a Beirut court and declares that he wants to sue his parents "for giving [him] life". A shocking and outlandish statement, but as Labaki’s film traces through Zain’s experiences – born in a family overwhelmed by too many children, slum neighbourhoods, a sister sold into marriage, deprivation and roaming the streets as the sole caretaker of an abandoned toddler – his grievances against the world and those who brought him into it reverberate with righteous fury.
Drawing astonishing performances from her cast of non-professional actors depicting situations not far from their own life experiences, Labaki’s sprawling film is an impassioned and bold triumph. One of only three women directors competing in the main competition at Cannes this year, she has crafted a dark but deeply humane Kafka-esque tale of empathy and insight.
"Sensational … a social-realist blockbuster – fired by furious compassion and teeming with sorrow, yet strewn with diamond-shards of beauty, wit and hope." – The Telegraph