"Capernaum," one of the Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language film is a movie that will linger with you long after the closing credits roll.
Director Nadine Labaki, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jihad Hojeily and Michelle Keserwany, has captured the struggles of the working class in Lebanon - a jarring story that really packs an emotional punch.
"Capernaum" tells the story of Zain (Zain al-Rafeea), a street wise 12-year-old boy in Lebanon who, while in prison for a violent crime, sues his parents for neglect. During the trail we see Zain's plight in flashbacks, how he ran away and lived on the streets only to be befriended by an Ethiopian immigrant named Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw). She provides food and shelter for Zain in exchange for Zain and taking care of her infant son.
When Rahil doesn't come home from work one day, Zain is forced to use any means necessary to provide for himself and the young boy.
Al-Rafeea is the driving force of this movie, in a performance that is even more impressive when you consider he had very little acting experience prior to the film. He makes the struggles seem real - a mere child asked to do things that even adults shouldn't be asked to do.
At times his struggles seems almost too real - with "Capernaum" having the feel that Labaki just turned on the camera one day to observe a neighborhood and this is what she found. As I watched the film I was reminded of the brilliant "City of God" from nearly a decade ago that covered struggles similar to this.
"Capernaum" doesn't quite rise to that level however. The framing device of the courtroom scenes don't have the same effect as the flashbacks, causing the narrative to stall at times.
It's a minor quibble though for an important film, one that truly deserves its Oscar accolades.