Our Children Film Review
By Dima Saqfalhait
“You’ll burry them in Morocco?”
These are the first words uttered in the film by a weeping fragile woman who, we realize later, is called Murielle and is the main character of the film. There’s a “them”. And they are dead. You’re left with this thought in your subconscious (or conscious if you were really focused and chose not to forget) as you begin to watch what comes next, which doesn’t build on the previous scene. Mounir is madly in love with Murielle and wishes to get married to her. So, where’s the catch?
Based on a true story, Our Children (2012) is a Belgian-French psychological film directed by the Belgian director Joachim Lafosse. For fear of spoilers, I will steer clear from stating what the true story is, or even the ending of the film as it was more enjoyable for me to figure it out gradually while watching. However, the film was brilliant in depicting the consequences motherhood, coupled with stifling relatives, absence of love, understanding and appreciation, as well as mounting responsibilities can do to a once cheerful and bright person, like Murielle.
Murielle marries Mounir, who is of Moroccan origins but was adopted 20 years earlier by a wealthy Belgian doctor, Andre Pinget. Appearing at first as a warm and generous father figure, Andre’s influence and interference in the couple’s lives becomes stifling and overwhelming.
Showering them with expensive gifts (a honey moon as a starter), and having them live in his own house, while offering Mounir a job at his own practice, almost gives Andre the upper-hand in the relationship. Murielle gives birth to one child after the other, with minimum care and help from her husband who suddenly, after showing the most adorable character at the beginning of the film, begins to show the stereotypical “Middle-Eastern” husband characteristics. Mounir expects Murielle to cook, clean, take care of the children’s safety, as well as be a beautiful wife readily available at any time he wishes. He is indebted to Andre and expects her to be so as well.
The film is brilliant in depicting mental health issues. No wonder that the film won the Un Certain Regard award for Best Actress at Cannes film festival. You can feel for Murielle and sympathize with her. However, I felt like this happened at the expense of Mounir the husband. We couldn’t get a real understanding of his actions which were vilified throughout the film. I’m not saying he is not to be blamed for the situation, but still, we never manage to see things from his own perspective. He slaps Murielle when lunch is not ready, he forces her to accept the presence of a man she despises, he doesn’t help with children, and it is even hinted that he may have married her for the legal papers. So, although the film is unique in giving us insight into what could lead to mental health deterioration, it fails to show any depth of character to anyone but to Murielle.
That said, I highly recommend the film. The music is brilliant. So are the character performance, cinematography, events progress and twists. It’s one of the films I would recommend watching with company as it will steer some heated debate.
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A doctor brings a boy to Belgium and raises him as his own. When the boy reaches adulthood, he gets married and starts his own family — but he still relies on the doctor. When trouble strikes his family, the dependence turns into domination.
Release date: August 22, 2012 (France)
Director: Joachim Lafosse
Nominations: European Film Award for Best Actress…
Awards: Un Certain Regard Award for Best Actress
Languages: French language, Arabic Language