The French-Algerian filmmaker and politician Yamini Benguigui delves into her personal history archive in this semi-autobiographical drama. An emotional yet strangely vacant story of three sisters’ 30 years of torment from the kidnapping of their brother at the hands of an abusive father.
Centring on siblings, Zorah (Isabelle Adjani), Nohra (Maïwenn) and Djamila (Rachida Brakni), each a very different woman in their personalities, living in a cosmopolitan Paris. Zorah, a bohemian playwright and eldest of the trio, has a relaxed attitude to life until it comes to her work. Deciding to engage in a new play Zorah tells the story of her family struggles growing up at the hands of a violent and controlling Father becomes the root of further tensions between her mother and sisters. Djamila, being a prominent politician working for the voices of the Algerian and Muslim communities, does not want to air the family’s dirty laundry in public. Nohra, the unemployed and mentally fragile one of the trio, is filled with anger with just the mention of their childhood becoming a factoring trigger.
Benguigui has a disjointed approach, the flashbacks are told through the empty and absent eyes of Adjani’s Zorah – of growing up with their Father in Algeria, an Algeria where women have no rights even when it comes to the custody of their children. The subsequent fleeing of their mother from his tyrannical reign for her daughters’ freedom evolves through those playing their younger counterparts on the stage, but in real settings – which makes this all the more bewildering.
During the aforementioned fleeing, their brother Rheda was kidnapped by their Father. 30 years later, they have never given up hope he will be found. When their Father is on their deathbed, the women travel back to Algeria to find their missing brother and finally engulf themselves in their roots. At this point, questions begin to arise from the lack of a fleshed-out story, had these women made any previous attempts at trying to find the missing brother? We will never know.
Despite its 1 hour and 40-minute runtime, the flashbacks are mostly rushed, undefined and when returning to the present day, our protagonists are all one dimensional it is hard to build any kind of empathetic connection even with a story as worthwhile and beguiling as this. For many of the mysteries, the audience is left wanting. There is a deeply imbued vagueness from beginning to end – a truly wasted opportunity for such a dramatic and intriguing premise.