Featuring: Juliette Binoche, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lauryn Canny
Director: Erik Poppe
Screenwriter:Erik Poppe, Harald Rosenløw Eeg
Australian release date: now showing at Luna
Verdict: A well-executed and at times extremely powerful drama inquiring into the personal costs and morality of war photo-journalism.
The opening to this movie is gripping and shocking, depicting the rituals preceding a young woman’s suicide bombing mission in Afghanistan, then the moral dilemma of war photojournalist Rebecca (Juliette Binoche) who has been allowed to document proceedings right to the busy town attack site. Fleeing the suicide car when the explosion is imminent, she watches on, knowing that passersby including children are about to be killed and maimed. Only at the last moment is she unable to resist the compulsion to signal the danger to the public, then all hell breaks loose…
Suffering serious injury in the blast, Rebecca returns home to Ireland to her husband Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and their two daughters. During her rehabilitation, she is confronted with stark evidence of the emotional strain she is placing on her family, culminating in Marcus demanding that she choose between her career and family. She makes the obvious decision, but the conviction that her photography is important in exposing the ugly realities of warfare nags at her. Teen daughter Steph (Lauryn Canny) begins to understand her mother’s philosophical position, and begs to accompany her on a short stint photographing a refugee camp in Kenya that is considered safe. The reality is otherwise, and as Steph is driven away from marauding terrorists in the nick of time, Rebecca insists on staying behind, compelled to answer her career calling once again, whatever the cost.
This is a pivotal moment, taking away her options and propelling the narrative to a powerful and profound resolution that perfectly bookends the beginning. The material in between is not as strong, although the clash between family and career – a universal jostling of priorities with which many viewers will identify – is for the most part well managed by director and performers. Lauryn Canny, in particular, is outstanding as the sensitive, torn Steph.
The low point of the piece is an all-too-obvious instance of screenwriter sermonising: Rebecca is reduced to a political mouthpiece when she blames multinational corporations for the militarism and terrorism afflicting the war-ravaged areas she covers in her work. Regardless of the veracity of these claims, this authorial intrusion is undisciplined and indulgent, and the dialogue excruciating.
Thankfully, this is only a momentary lapse in a film that is otherwise well executed and worth chasing down.
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