This brutally tough but absorbing film is set in a Damascus apartment in which a family with a tragic secret have barricaded themselves
There is something almost unbearable in this film’s tension and claustrophobia, a brutally tough drama from writer-director Philippe Van Leeuw. The scene is a crowded apartment in the Syrian capital Damascus, in which a family is barricaded, effectively imprisoned by the civil war outside. Food and water are running out in this small space. Hiam Abbass plays Yazan, the stern matriarch who through sheer force of will is keeping things together. Her husband has gone for help; she must keep in line her two daughters and son, her elderly father-in-law and also a couple staying with them, who are planning an escape. Then something tragic happens that has to be kept secret from the rest of the family, known only to Yazan and her maidservant Delhani (Juliette Navis).
It is an absorbing drama, but I felt that it spoiled its own sense of tension and jeopardy with something of a cop-out ending. Yet there can’t be any doubt about the strength and charisma of Abbass’s performance, and that of Diamund Bou Abboud, who plays the young mother, Halima.