Disclaimer: The following review may contain spoilers.
BEIRUT: This is us: the heartbreak, the loss, the confusion, the drugs, the music, the love, and the fear.
Nadim Tabet’s directorial debut grants Lebanon its first shameless look at its lost generation in a tale that zooms in on two young women, whose paths represent the yin and yang of growing up in modern day Lebanon.
In a film that oozes Lebanon’s dualistic culture, One of These Days follows a group of friends each with their own identity, some even trying to figure out their identity, as the narrative unfolds over the course of, well, one day in Beirut.
The narrative’s structural arc shifts from classical design, three-act-structure with a clear external conflict, to a minimalist design, a narrative that shifts perspectives and deals with more of an internal conflict than an external one.
Tabet’s film immediately engages and pulls the audience in by doing the most unexpected thing: showing the truth.
The tale follows Yasmina as she escapes from rehab to join her friends and recapture the days before her addiction, an allegory of Lebanese citizens trying to recapture the days before the country’s collapse; and Maya, Yasmina’s best friend, who is slowly falling onto the same path as Yasmina, as history repeats itself, and innocence fades.
The surrounding ensemble is made up of Fouad, Maya’s brother; Rami, the narrative’s heart-throb; and Amira, the girl caught within the storm of the core group.
The cast in its entirety deliver solid performances, however there are three that stand out the most.
Yumna Marwan’s yearning for yesterday characterization allows for the parallelism between her Yasmina and Manal Issa’s Maya. This young woman has chops and gives a daring performance.
Nicolas Cardahi’s Fouad is quirky, angsty, and an absolute gem to witness. His performance has echoes of Seth Cohen from The O.C., and nails awkward while never breaking character.
And finally, newcomer Walid “Waldo” Feghaly plays the brooding band leader with a soft romantic heart so well; truly, where was Feghaly when they were casting Twilight? He could have saved that terrible franchise.
This is not to say that the rest of the cast was not good, it is clear that there was a lot of attention from director Nadim Tabet to ensure that every line of dialogue felt natural and did not feel like that of a “Lebanese Soap Opera,” although it was inescapable in some scenes.
Visually, the film does have a very indie film feel.
Cinematographer Pascal Auffray does offer the film a vivid pictorial-scape via his use of the camera and how he and Tabet set up the frame and the mise-en-scene.
The film’s edit is where the film garners some scars.
Though the film’s overall pace is deliberate, almost meditative and reflective, some scenes last a bit too long proving that the concept of “enter late” and “exit early” continues to be missed by Lebanese filmmakers.
The setback with staying in a scene too long is that it risks breaking the audience’s engagement.
Once the information is delivered, the scene has reached its purpose and as such the need for the director to keep the audience there.
This is the film’s biggest issue but it doesn’t harm the film’s overall achievement.
Ideologically is where the film soars the highest, because Tabet makes some very strategic decisions that are filled with purpose and poetry.
In a sequence that finds Yasmina reading a break-up letter sent to Fouad by his now ex-girlfriend, Tabet mirrors the words read by Yasmina with images of Beirut.
On the surface this might seem like a simple transitional sequence, but at its core the sequence is describing the faltering relationship between Beirut and its citizens and how they both failed each other.
The film also begins and ends with one of the most lyrical narrative devices, as our two protagonists metamorphose into each other; Yasmina finding her way back to innocence, and Maya finding herself completely lost and ashamed.
One of These Days flows like a leaf on a stream, granting the audience an unapologetic peek into the world of Lebanon’s lost youth as they try to figure out life, and find their way back home.
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