One Man’s Trash….: Our Review of ‘Costa Brava, Lebanon’

Posted in Theatrical by - August 13, 2022
One Man’s Trash….: Our Review of ‘Costa Brava, Lebanon’

Any country can trace their problems from a few decades back and Lebanon, or at least the fictional version of the country in Mounia Akl’s Costa Brava, Lebanon, is no different. Those problems follow their citizens slowly but surely. Two children, Rim (Ceana and Geana Restom) and Tala (Nadia Charbel) live in a rural part of their country. They can thank their parents Souraya (Nadine Labaki) and Walid (Saleh Bakri) fot this good piece of real estate. Both left the capital Beirut for different reasons. But during the film’s present day, a construction company starts a project in the land next to theirs. Noise and trash disrupt the ecofriendly utopia that Souraya and Walid build for their family.

The project affects Rim the most and emotionally. Trash is a presence that comes both literally and metaphorically in Akl’s film. The project, by the way, is a statue of Lebanon’s president that they’re building next to the family lot. And they also build a dump next to both. This metaphor is aggressive yet passable, apparently having a culturally specific meaning to the country. Trash as a metaphor also manifests in multiple symbols. Walid catches Tala and his mother Zeina (Liliane Chacar Khoury) watching a video of Souraya’s popstar past. He uses the word ‘crap’ in the conversation, but he isn’t specific enough whether or not he’s referring to technology or his wife’s work as crap.

Interesting. Anyway, context is important and surprisingly, that’s something some critics overlook. Costa Brava comes out as one of a few examples of isolation cinema, and sometimes that factors into Akl’s film’s subjective enjoyment. That’s not my experience here. Because personally, it’s probably been months since I saw a film about a family or a group of people intentionally hiding in the woods. Akl’s only hindrance here is, again, her use of metaphors that can come across to Western critics as aggressive. I’m sure the presence of trash can change the colour of one’s water. But the biblical reference feels a little much and may make some people roll their eyes a bit.

What saves Costa Brava though is that it’s not the cagiest isolation film out of the ones I saw in the past three months. The core five characters are enough to keep the film’s dynamics fresh, and all five have different perspectives. One of those perspectives is Tala’s, whose crush on one of the government works may be more than that. Some people go but for the most part the newcomers make the film interesting. That’s especially true when Tala and Rim’s aunt Alia (Yumma Mawran) flies from Colombia, telling the children that their father might not be right about everything. It’s a cliche, and the children already know it, but the execution of some tropes make some films like this work.

Costa Brava, Lebanon comes to the Revue on August 12.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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