By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on March 01, 2013

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Dear Kim McGraw

Dear Kim,

Far be it for me to question your taste. Your production company, microscope,_ is arguably the hottest shop in Canada. You've been so busy making great films and earning Academy Award nominations that you haven't even had time to update your English home page in four years. In fact, let's go back to that period. You were about to re-team with Philip Falardeau "in the summer of 2010" to create "Bashir Lazhar" (Monsieur Lazhar) and were "putting the last touch on Denis Villeneuve's next feature, Incendies." At this point of your career, I think you would have been a little more disciplined about bringing a movie like Inch'Allah to the big screen.

On paper, however, everything looks great. This is the story of Chloe (Evelyne Brochu), a French Canadian doctor working at a women's health clinic, who slowly starts to lose her impartiality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She is close friends with a female Israeli border guard (Sivan Levy), but spends most of her time with a pregnant Palestinian girl named Ran (Sabrina Ouzani). When Chloe witnesses a young boy being killed by Israeli soldiers, she starts to take sides, which could be dangerous to her practice. But the stakes are never made compelling, and Inch'Allah's filmmakers could be criticized for treating these events with the same emotional disinterest for which they accuse the Israeli media.

The film half-heartedly foreshadows an explosion from the final moments, which certainly provides some necessary impact, but nothing between the three major plot points seems to matter. The film meanders between bond fires, clinic treatments, car sales and Skype conversations that never advance the story and only provide minimal character insights. By the end, the "hero" is portrayed as one of the most ineffectual protagonists I've seen in years. She's simply an audience surrogate with too many close-ups of her face as she goes from place to place, unable to make a meaningful relationship or positive impact anywhere. This point, if it's trying to be made, feels more suited for a lecture than a film.

And yet, this is a far more accomplished film than many. It's just you've set such high expectations that I can't help but be disappointed.

You see, in a strange way, the existence of Incendies actually hurts this film. Our first impressions of Inch'Allah are of a French Canadian woman wondering through the Middle East. Combine this with leveraging Incendies on the poster for Inch'Allah, and a mildly informed audience could expect another densely packed, emotionally harrowing drama. But of course, an artist never wants to look repetitive (yes, producers can be artists too) and you must have been itching for something "new." So you may have let relatively unproven writer and director Anais Barbeau-Lavalette indulge bad habits that someone more experienced like Philip Falardeau is now able to avoid. As a result, Inch'Allah can't sustain the casual but compelling pace of Monsieur Lazhar and is miles away from the gripping political firestorm of Incendies.

Ultimately, Inch'Allah is far from a blemish on your stellar filmmography, but I can pretty much guarantee it won't be used to sell any of your next projects.

Inching away,


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