Review: Memory Box (15) - Love in War

A personal drama with rich and weighted performances, Memory Box is a film that won't be easily forgotten

Garvit Hora
14th February 2022
Image Credit: IMDB

Tina Baz gives a masterclass in editing and visual storytelling.

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s Memory Box is a remarkable story about a dark and deep unity we can find in romance, friends, and family through death. Jumping between two timelines, a young Alex (Paloma Sanders) snoops through a parcel addressed to her mother Maia (Rim Turki), revealing the traumas Téta (Clémence Sabbagh), Maia’s mother, so desperately attempts to keep under the rug; these traumas being characterised by, and collected within the Lebanese Civil War, particularly the mid-1980s.

Manal Issa, Credit: IMDb

The direction is very clearly a work of collaboration, though not to the film’s demise. It achieves a collaged, scrapbook-y aesthetic, as a result of the various time-jumps and ambitious camera movements throughout. This direction, merged with Tina Baz’s novel editing styles, allow the telling of a beautifully heartfelt and homegrown story. The editing is Memory Box’s gold mine, never failing to excite and entice. Being so various, creative, and outlandish yet as cohesive as it is, is a great feat. Baz’s editing has set a new benchmark for what visual storytelling can and should be moving forward.

Small snapshots collect momentum and develop a gravity that is nothing short of masterful in its execution

Personal dramas with political backdrops are difficult to achieve balance with, but Memory Box never feels as though it shoehorns the ongoing conflict within the drama. The film meshes the dichotomy with grace, credit yet again to the editing, but furthermore to the extremely potent screenplay. Often giving no more than small snapshots of the past at a time, we learn a large deal through the events’ cyclicality or connections to the present. These small snapshots collect momentum and develop a gravity that is nothing short of masterful in its execution.

Michelle Bado, Reina Jabbour, Rea Gemayel, and Manal Issa in Memory Box, Credit: IMDb

The performances are rich and weighted. Across the three generations the film bridges in its narrative, there are moments where everyone shines. Clémence Sabbagh floors in every scene she inhabits. And both, Paloma Sanders and Rim Turki navigate between scenes of deep sorrow and rage with natural ease.

In light of all these positives, however, the film is not without its flaws. My biggest gripes with the film lie in its screenplay, in which there are many rich, symbolic moments, yet on occasion, it gives the viewers more than it needs to, making the writing read less confident in itself and in the audience. That being said, Memory Box was a fantastic picture, leaving me excited about the future works of Hadjithomas, Joreige and Tina Baz.

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