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MOVIES (LFF 2022): The Damned Don't Cry - Review

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A remarkable triumph of a social-realist drama from the director of Lynn + Lucy, one of the toughest social-realist pieces of the last few years, switches our attention from Essex to Tangier; where Fatima-Zahra and her teenage son Selim have just turned up in search of a new life, ever the wanderers, drifting from place to place - but Tangier is not for the faint of heart and both Fatima-Zahra and Selim have to sell different parts of themselves in order to survive - cast out on the fringes of society and left to make do with themselves; these are stories that you've seen told countless times before and this is an amazing new piece from Fyzal Boufal that lives up to the reputation of her last feature.

This is a a brave, fearless film that starts slow but really picks up the more it progresses. The clash between families; ideals and cultures is heart-breaking to watch - everyone is forced to make the hardest of hard choices and this leads to some fascinatingly complex character studies. The dynamic between Fatima-Zahra and Selim is masterfully done thanks to the performances by Aïcha Tebbae and Adbellah El Hajjouji as you see their hopes and dreams realised. Tebbae is excellent, bringing the complex development to Fatima-Zahra who keeps falling back into her old ways no matter the change in lifestyle; the chief dance sequence in the film are punctuated by a brilliant sense of false uplift and hope - quickly torn away as Selim leaves. Scenes like that define the characters - both doing what's best for each other, but in their own ways - that don't always collide perfectly.

A real powerhouse of storytelling accomplishment, The Damned Don't Cry is one of the understated highlights of the cinematic year. Two non-professional actors give the material their utmost all and it really comes together on screen. Morally complex storylines are the best kind of cinema and an easy answer is never offered.

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