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Where Do We Go Now?

In this gentle comedy, the women of a Lebanese village keep the peace

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Nadine Labaki's ensemble comedy is a fable that takes place in a small unnamed Lebanese village. The island-like town is isolated by uncleared landmines and can barely get TV reception. But there, the Muslims and the Christians live side by side in relative harmony, placated chiefly by the town's women. The ladies — who gather in gossipy groups — grieve deeply for the men they've already lost to sectarian conflict, and refuse to tolerate the hair-trigger impulses of their husbands and sons. In the few days this film covers, tensions do boil over, and the women — with some inspiration from the Greek classic Lysistrata — enact a number of comic distractions to keep the peace.

Labaki, who also stars and co-wrote the screenplay, manages to keep the film toggling successfully between humor and sadness, advocating change without becoming too preachy. (She even works in a couple of musical numbers.) Certainly, Where Do We Go is a little simplistic, but in the way that the ultimate solution is simple, if seemingly unattainable: Stop fighting with your neighbor over religion.

The women are the strong suit of this film — mildly profane, undaunted, sensibly seeking shared solutions. As in her earlier film, Caramel, it's uplifting to see the agency the film grants such voices less heard in this contentious public sphere.

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