Luxor

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Luxor
"Durra isn't looking to make anything so simple as a romantic drama, though that element is there, but instead to consider what lies beneath Hana's words in terms as she grapples in the liminal space between her past and her future." | Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Zeina Durra's second feature slow-burning and elliptical consideration of the battered emotional landscape of a medic who is taking time out in the Egyptian city between work on the Syrian Border and a potential new posting in Yemen.

Hana (Andrea Riseborough) seems small in the face of her life - her clothes are so big they consume her and, at every opportunity, her body language seems to fold in on itself with origami neatness. This isn't trauma that is talked about but it's present in almost every move she makes, especially after she re-encounters her ex Sultan (Karim Saleh) by chance, his immediate understanding of where she is at emotionally seeming to kick in like a muscle memory.

And memory itself has a key role to play here. "I don't remember much these days," says Hana, but there's just as much of a sense that she is trying to forget a great many things that have some how crowded out her more pleasant recollections. Durra dips in and out of Hana's encounters, allowing the spaces between what we see on the screen to grow in the mind, while seeding in elements of the ancient city and spiritualism with a lightness of touch. Riseborough never misses a beat between the spare lines of the script, allowing just the right amount of brittleness or fragility to glint through beneath Hana's often easy laughter or casual banter with Sultan - a moment of dance perfectly poised between freedom and breakdown.

Saleh also works the emotional angles, so that the relationship between Sultan and Hana slips from warm amicability to intesity at key moments. Durra isn't looking to make anything so simple as a romantic drama, though that element is there, but instead to consider what lies beneath Hana's words in terms as she grapples in the liminal space between her past and her future. Impressively, Durra knows when to undercut portentousness with the everyday, so that her themes of self-discovery are worn gracefully but with impact.

Reviewed on: 06 Nov 2020
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When British aid worker Hana returns to Luxor, a sleepy city on the banks of the Nile, she comes across Sultan, a talented archeologist and former lover. As she wanders, haunted by the familiar place, she struggles to reconcile the choices of the past with the uncertainty of the present.

Director: Zeina Durra

Writer: Zeina Durra

Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Karim Saleh, Shahira Fahmy, Sherine Reda, Salima Ikram, Michael Landes, Ahmed Talaat, Indigo Rønlov, Janie Aziz, Trude Reed, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Landes, Karim Saleh, Shahira Fahmy, Sherine Reda

Year: 2020

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: Egypt, UK, United Arab Emirates

Festivals:

Sundance 2020

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