Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: contains violence and content that may disturb
Lubna Azabal as Nawal Marwan
Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin as Jeanne Marwan
Maxim Gaudette as Simon Marwan
Rémy Girard as Jean Lebel
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Nawal (Lubna Azabal), a dying Middle Eastern woman living in Montreal, leaves separate letters to her twin children to be read once she passes away. Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) is to deliver hers to the father the twins never knew, and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) is to give his to the brother they never knew they had. The siblings travel to the Middle East separately, where they each experience acts of brutality, uncover a startling family history, and have revelations about themselves.
Incendies was the last of Denis Villeneuve’s films that I had got around to watching. I had caught up on his other movies, all the way to his first with August 32nd on Earth. This is his last non-English language movie before he started making movies that most people know of now with Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario and beyond. I’ve heard some great things about Incendies, mostly that it’s a really impactful film. I can confirm that it is indeed fantastic, and that it’s among Villeneuve’s best.
Incendies is a mystery movie, with a plot containing a number of twists and turns, and so I’d say that that it is really best going into it knowing not much beyond that, so I’ll keep my description of it reasonably vague. The plot of Incendies is essentially about twins about looking for their father that’s still alive and looking for the brother they never knew they had, at the request of their dying mother. It’s split in two storylines, with the twins going to certain places that the mother had once been, as well as the flashbacks of the mother. It’s a very closed in and intimate movie and you are absolutely locked in from start to finish. Although it is generally great, as the movie progresses further on and comes together at the end, it’s something quite excellent. This movie can get very bleak, even by Denis Villeneuve’s standards, and certain revelations later on are quite ‘impactful’ (an understatement really). I guess if you wanted nit-picked a little, you could say that the movie does really rely on a lot of coincidences, but I guess that’s kind of the point, it didn’t bother me too much.
While the cast isn’t particularly known and isn’t particularly large, the acting is great from everyone. The twins played by Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette do well in their roles. These characters don’t have a lot to them and you don’t really get to learn much about them (outside of one initially being more willing than the other to do deliver on their mother’s final request), however that works fine enough, because Incendies is essentially the story of the mother, not the children. Really, it’s Lubna Azabal’s movie as Nawal, and she carries the movie excellently. The story goes to some very emotional levels, and Azabal more than delivered on her part.
Denis Villeneuve’s direction is fantastic as usual. It’s a stunning looking movie, Andre Turpin’s cinematography is outstanding, and there are so many memorable and emotionally impactful images that are burned into your memory. Much of the movie is actually rather quiet and subtle, but it all just made everything feel all the more real and raw.
Incendies is a devastating and unforgettable film, it’s truly remarkable. It’s constantly engaging, greatly acted, and an effective emotional punch when it needs to be. Denis Villeneuve has done such fantastic work here, and this ranks among his best movies, which is saying a lot considering some of the other films he’s made. Although it’s not an easy watch by any means, I’d say to definitely check this movie out, especially if you like Villeneuve’s other movies.