×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘The Day I Lost My Shadow’

The powerful story of a Syrian mother separated from her son and trapped in the dangerous countryside around Damascus is undercut by characterless visuals.

Director:
Soudade Kaadan
With:
Sawsan Arsheed, Samer Ismail, Reham Al Kassar,

Official Site: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8900142/?ref_=nm_flmg_cin_1

The first 15 minutes of “The Day I Lost My Shadow” pack a punch that never quite returns to Soudade Kaadan’s fiction debut. Set in Damascus and environs at the start of the war in 2012, the film follows a mother whose search for a simple cooking gas cylinder leads her into a nightmare journey of internecine conflict that robs people of their shadows when it doesn’t snuff out their lives. Shooting in Lebanon largely with exiled Syrian cast and crew, Kaadan aims for a cinéma vérité style with touches of magic realism, yet characterless visuals aren’t able to achieve the desired poetic impact. Still, the topicality, together with Venice’s Lion of the Future prize for best debut, assures an active festival life.

Panic appears to overtake a Damascus neighborhood as pharmacist Sana (Sawsan Arsheed) and her young son Khalil (Ahmad Morhaf Al Ali) race upstairs to their apartment, stalling when a security agent demands to know where they’re headed and then shooting past a funeral on a lower floor before reaching the safety of home. Once through the door, the reason for the mad dash becomes clear: They’re wanting to beat water rationing and do the laundry before the power cuts. These early moments are the best, warmly capturing the loving relationship between mother and son, whose mutual emotional dependence is crucial for appreciating the level of Sana’s stress later in the film.

The next day she lines up for a replacement gas canister, looking forward to making a hot meal for Khalil, but supplies quickly run out. Anxious to find one at another location, she teams up with siblings Jalal (Samer Ismail) and Reem (Reham Al Kassar), hiring a cabbie (Yassin Albokhari) to take them to the outskirts of town. An unexpected road block leads the driver to bolt in desperation, and they find themselves hiding from government soldiers in an olive grove. It’s there that Sana notices Jalal has no shadow.

The concept owes something to folklore and the idea that someone without a shadow is a person without a soul, but Kaadan gives it an intriguing, hypothetically effective spin: those without shadows are traumatized by the brutality of war (in Jalal’s case, he lost his after witnessing his brother’s torture and death). Though less than 10 miles from the city, the trio are trapped in the countryside with no means of communication, hiding from roaming soldiers and government allies while seeking a way of getting back to Damascus.

Thanks to the way Kaadan swiftly built sympathy for the bond between Sana and Khalil, the mother’s deep distress at being separated from her son, with no means of contacting him, carries palpable weight, adding a level of angst as she searches for a way to get home. The film is at its best in conjuring the fear of a society careening toward catastrophe, trying to live normal lives at the start of the war even while bombs are falling within earshot. Sana’s almost used to negotiating the chaos in a city rent by fighting, but the uncertainty of the surrounding areas, and the difficulty of identifying allies, become too much to bear when added to concerns for her son.

While the story itself is potent, the dialogue is unremarkable and the characters of Jalal and Reem are less compelling than their situations warrant. Visuals are also a weak point, as lackluster compositions fail to bring out the subject’s full, terrifying potential.

Film Review: 'The Day I Lost My Shadow'

Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons) Sept. 3, 2018 (also in Toronto – Discovery; London – First Feature Competition; Busan – Window on Asian Cinema; Los Angeles – World Fiction). Running time: 91 MIN: (Original title: “Yom Adaatou Zouli”)

Production: (Lebanon-France-Qatar) A KAF Production, Acrobates Film, Metaphora Production prod. (Int'l. sales: Stray Dogs, Paris.) Producers: Amira Kaadan. Co-producers: Soudade Kaadan, Claire Lajoumard.

Crew: Director, writer: Soudade Kaadan. Camera (color): Eric Devin. Editors: Pierre Deschamps, Kaadan. Music: Kinan Azmeh.

With: Sawsan Arsheed, Samer Ismail, Reham Al Kassar,Oweiss Mokhallalati, Hanane Hajj Ali, Ahmad Morhaf Al Ali, Yassin Albokhari. (Arabic dialogue)

More Film

  • The Wizard of Oz

    'The Wizard of Oz' to Return to Theaters for 80th Anniversary

    “The Wizard of Oz” is returning to theaters this weekend for a special limited engagement marking the 80th anniversary of the film’s Hollywood premiere. Fathom Events, TCM, and Warner Bros. are re-releasing the beloved family film in select theaters across the country beginning on Sunday, Jan. 27, with additional dates on Tuesday, Jan. 29, and Wednesday [...]

  • Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jacek Bednarczyk/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

    Jonas Mekas, Influential Experimental Filmmaker, Dies at 96

    Jonas Mekas, the Lithuania-born filmmaker who started Film Culture magazine and the organization that became New York’s Anthology Film Archives, died Wednesday. He was 96. Anthology Film Archives wrote on Instagram, “He will be greatly missed but his light shines on.” More Reviews Concert Review: Lady Gaga Outdoes Her Other Vegas Show With Masterful 'Jazz [...]

  • Annapurna Hire

    Annapurna Ups Sue Naegle to Chief Content Officer, Names Ivana Lombardi President of Film

    Sue Naegle has been named chief content officer at Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures. Naegle joined the company as head of television in 2016, and will now oversee development and production in film, TV, video games, and the company’s theater division. As part of the reorganization, Ivana Lombardi has been named president of film, a role [...]

  • Michael B Jordan Warner Bros

    Michael B. Jordan Signs First-Look Deal With Warner Bros.

    “Black Panther” and “Creed II” star Michael B. Jordan has signed a first-look deal with Warner Bros. for his production company Outlier Society. The deal was announced Wednesday by Toby Emmerich, chairman of the Warner Bros. Pictures Group. The studio noted that the alliance marks a continuation of their partnership following the unveiling of a [...]

  • Sandra Bullock Reborn

    Sandra Bullock Re-Teams With Netflix to Produce Sci-Fi Movie 'Reborn'

    Sandra Bullock is re-teaming with Netflix to produce the science-fiction movie “Reborn” for the streaming service. Chris McKay has been signed to direct the comic book adaptation. “It” producer Vertigo Entertainment is also on board to produce. Bullock starred in the Netflix movie “Bird Box,” which has been viewed in more than 80 million households, [...]

  • A still from Mike Wallace Is

    Portrait Docus Dominate at Sundance

    It’s not entirely surprising that portrait documentaries dominate this year’s Sundance nonfiction lineup. Two of the biggest nonfiction films of 2018 – “RBG” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” – are profile films that premiered at last year’s Sundance and later made the Oscar docu shortlist. The success of both docs could help explain why [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content