Review: Capernaum, 2019, dir. Nadine Labaki

I’m not tickled to be the messenger for Capernaum; picking apart a film like this, an issue-driven film about incredibly real human circumstances as reenacted by people who probably endure those circumstances in their own lives*, is like playing the Grinch, or Ebenezer Scrooge, or failing that it’s not unlike kicking an emaciated puppy. But maybe that’s the impetus for picking Capernaum apart. Movies like it are either made to be critic-proof or believed to be critic-proof, and nothing’s critic-proof.

My problem with Capernaum is simple: What value does excess depiction of its main character’s suffering have? Once Nadine Labaki establishes just how shit his life is, she re-establishes the shit, then again, and again, and after a minor reprieve, wherein his life is still shit but less so because he’s found shelter with a good custodian, she tells us, once more, that his life is shit. The editing and structure betrays a possible, and I’d even go as far to say probable, distrust in her audience, and whether she means it or not, the effect is voyeuristic. Watching Capernaum is like watching a safari tour. It’s kinda gross.

I’m giving away my thoughts too soon. You can read my full review over at Paste Magazine.


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