Brilliant drama set in fictional Middle Eastern country Discuss this article

A staggering political drama that could put you in mind of the intimate sweep of Bernardo Bertolucci, Incendies feels like a mighty movie in our midst. The film seems sprung from a different era – the gloriously bold early ’70s – or perhaps an alien studio system (that would be Canada’s). The dislocation fits the material perfectly: Denis Villeneuve’s family drama, based on a much chattier play by Wajdi Mouawad, takes place in a fictional Middle East country a lot like Lebanon, where atrocities linger in the memory. But the terrain is rather abstracted: a jumble of rubble-strewn alleys, banal torture rooms and unpredictable militiamen.

This is a land largely unknown to Arab-born Montreal siblings Jeanne (Dsormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Gaudette), who assemble in the offices of their mother’s notary for the reading of her will. They learn of a father they never knew, as well as a brother, and are tasked with finding them both. The scene sounds like a cliché (and is), yet as the movie begins to toggle between the pair’s explorations in the former war zone and flashbacks to the violent life of their mother, you forgive the setup.

In Villeneuve’s hands, we’re delivered to revelatory terror: a fierce honour killing is eclipsed by a masterfully mounted siege on a Muslim bus by Christian soldiers. Quieter moments of personal reckoning carry explosive weight – to reveal more is to strip the film of its sad wisdom. The country may not exist, but the tale’s truth is everywhere.

By Joshua Rothkopf
Time Out Doha,


  • Duration: 130
  • Released: Thu, 28 Jun
  • Classification: 18+
  • Language: English
  • Director: Denis Villeneuve
  • Stars: Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gaudette, Mustafa Kamel, Hussein Sami, Rémy Girard

Add your review/feedback

Subscribe to weekender newsletter



Explore by

Our favourite features