A worthy Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum remarkably sustains hope and investment within bleak circumstances for two-and-a-half hours.
Propelled by a narrative true to its titular synonym for “chaos,” the Lebanese export also features one of cinema’s all-time great child performances — truly! — by wholly naturalistic, real-life Syrian refugee Zain Al Rafeea as a preteen named, well, Zain.
Fed up with his parents’ mishandling of his beloved sister’s future, Zain raises the film’s already high tension when he runs away to Beirut, links up with undocumented Ethiopian refugee Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw) and scrapes out a meager and, in turn, breathless existence with her and her young son Yonas (Boluwatife Treasure Bankole).
Framed by an intriguing court case pitting Zain — with Labaki as his crusading attorney — against his mother and father, Capernaum keeps viewers guessing in regards to chronology and its characters’ fates and wrings out a wealth of humanity in the process.
Grade: B-plus. Rated R. Starts Feb. 22 at Grail Moviehouse
(Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)