By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
With war as a background, many love stories have enchanted and enthralled audiences in the world of cinema. 1982 works its magic in a similar fashion, but does so within the context of the 1982 Lebanon War and focuses on the love stories of two different generations of Lebanese people in very different stages of relationships. Written and directed by Oualid Mouaness, this compelling and beautiful drama brings a real sense of urgency to a much needed love in a setting where war threatens to destroy all semblences of one of humanity’s main sources of sustenance.
As Lebanon is on the verge of a very violent and destructive war, elementary school student Wissam’s (Mohammad Dalli) only desire is to express his feelings of love toward his classmate Joana (Gia Madi). As the faculty and staff attempt to maintain some semblance of normality on a school day, Wissam makes several attempts to tell Joana how he feels; however, exams, his fears, and the impending threat of violence continue to interfere with the heart-to-heart conversation he craves. Meanwhile, Wissam’s teacher Yasmine (Nadine Labaki) struggles with some troubles of the heart of her own. She and her current boyfriend, another teacher at the school, are at a crossroads where political ideology has caused a rift in their relationship. As the inevitiable doom of violence looms over the day, both Wissam and Yasmine must act before it is too late.
Lebanon’s entry for last year’s Best International Feature Oscar proves to be a film worthy of a nomination. Filmmaker Oualid Mouaness has made a movie that is utterly moving, beautiful, and haunting in so many ways. Though the film gets presented in a mostly realistic manner, some of the moment are presented through the hopeful and gorgeously imaginative eyes of its main protagonist Wissam. Wissam dreams and imagines of a more beautiful and hopeful world. He sees the world as an artist, and longs for love to permeate the world around him. The film offers a beautiful message, but also never downplays the tragedy and sadness that war brings with it. Mouaness and his editors pace the film superbly, never relenting on the inevitable threat that looms over the day.
The entire cast performs just as superbly, including the child actors who shine just as brightly as the adults. As Yasmine, Nadine Labaki beautifully expresses the stress and pain she feels while attempting to maintain a strong, brave face for her child students. As Wissam, Mohammad Dalli gives a tremendous performance as the amorously tormented young man attempting to muster the necessary courage to face the girl he truly loves. As Ms. Leila, the schools administrative secretary, Aliya Khalidi gives a standout supporting turn as the main school employee attempting to maintain control and order over the school’s affairs.
Though this movie did not score a nomination for the Best International Film Oscar last year, it is still a remarkable and amazing movie. It has a timeless and familiar quality that will always ring true in the world of cinema. The movie is now available for streaming on Amazon and possilbly other streaming and On Demand services. Full of much heart and hope, 1982 is a film that should not be missed.