Where Do We Go Now? is a funny and frustrating film about the lengths some women will go to prevent their men from fighting. Set in a small village in Lebanon, life is simple but peaceful for the mixed population of Christians and Muslims. Men and women work and socialize together regardless of their faith until news of a larger conflict makes old tensions rise again. The film is anchored by solid performances, including actor director Nadine Labaki, but is let down by jarring tonal shifts, a lack of depth and running time that stretches on a bit too long.
The movie opens with a funeral procession of the village woman going to the local cemetery. They proceed down the road together, united in their mourning until they get to a cemetery divided into Christian and Muslim sections. There has been great tragedy in the past but life must go on and everyone is in a good mood as the village gears up for a celebration as a dusty old TV is restored to life. However, shortly afterwards comes the news that fighting between Christian and Muslim factions has arisen again. The Men of the village start squaring off along religious lines for no other reason than it is happening somewhere else.
The film completely glosses over any kind of exploration of the conflict. We get no wider sense of the conflict; why it started, how it started. It is a simple religious conflict; you believe X and I believe Y so we must fight. Perhaps this is because the focus is on the women; who have decided that enough is enough. Regardless of their religion they don’t want to bury anymore family members. There is not enough space to get a deep understanding of all the various characters but they are all imbued with enough life to make them interesting.
To prevent the men from getting too worked up the village women come up with increasingly outlandish schemes to distract them. These range in scale and efficacy from feeding them hash cookies to hiring a troupe of Ukrainian dancers to entertain them. The schemes are also supposed to provide most of the laughs in this dramedy but the soundtrack and broader tone of the movie prevents you from really finding much humour in it. It’s not that the schemes aren’t funny; it’s just that you can’t shift mood quickly enough to enjoy it.
Where Do We Go Now? doesn’t say much about religion, it’s presented in an almost neutral light with even the local priest and imam being friends. It says a lot more about hot-headed men finding any excuse for rumble. It may stretch on for too long but it is a well put together film that ultimately fails to properly explore its’ subject matter. It’s a good portrait of a village scarred and swept away in a larger conflict.