Once it overcomes its cloying setup, Nadine Labaki’s film about an 12-year-old embittered by his grim circumstances is an arresting look at crushed innocence For all its occasional sentimentality, this film is about the link between poverty and anger. It’s a much angrier, tougher – and sometimes funnier – film than you might imagine from its cloying opening premise. Zain (Zain Alrafeea) is a 12-year-old boy in Beirut, deeply embittered by his poverty, by his parents’ failure to protect him from it and by the desperate and humiliatingly ineffective accommodations they have made to get money. They have effectively sold his beloved 11-year-old sister Samar (Cedra Izam) in marriage to their landlord’s creepy son – an arrangement that is to have a tragic outcome. Zain is now in Lebanon’s notorious Roumieh prison, from which he is launching a lawsuit against his parents, suing them for the fact that he has been born – a legal stunt apparently encouraged by a TV current affairs show as a way of publicising the issue of child poverty.
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