TIFF Review: Jonathan Sagall’s Lipstikka
Lipstikka is a thought-provoking tale of two women forever changed by a tragic childhood event.
Lipstikka, written and directed by Canadian-born Israeli Jonathan Sagall, is an arresting (and complicated) tale that achieves the perfect balance of subtlety and intense drama.
When I left the movie theatre, a friend asked “What was it about?” I realized in that moment how wonderful Lipstikka truly was. In most instances, this question can be answered with a brief explanation of plot and prominent themes, but Sagall’s story and characters are multi-dimensional, relatable, and thought-provoking. I wanted to tell my friend about the strong performances of the four female leads, the poignant (yet simple) social and political messages, and the stunning cinematography, but I quickly realized that in its core, Lipstikka is about memory and perspective- both individual and collective.
Set in London, Lipstikka tells the story of close childhood friends (and part-time lovers) Lara and Inam. The pair experience a tragic, life-altering incident as teenagers in Palestine that unfortunately sets the course for all future decisions and perceptions- of themselves, each other, and the world they live in.
In the opening segment, we are introduced to an adult Lara (Clara Khoury), who explains in a voiceover that she has accepted her life that currently consists of a suburban London home, a sweet son, and an advertising exec. husband that sleeps in a different bed, and has done so since their child was born. An unexpected knock at the door from the gorgeous, yet frazzled Inam (Nataly Attiya) begins the audiences journey into a series of flashbacks intercut with present day, slowly unraveling the emotional events that brought the women to this point.
Sagall gives the audience information about the climactic event in small pieces, effectively building suspense but also giving us the opportunity to learn about the women as adults, their relationship with one another, and their wildly different attitudes towards life, men, each other, and their past.
Moran Rosenblatt, portraying the young Inam, delivers the strongest performance. The script demands she act out the same scene in two completely different ways. First as sexy, confident, and invincible teenager. Second as a vulnerable, insecure, and victimized young girl. The actress achieves this effortlessly.
This film has the potential to cause some political stir from both Israeli and Palestinian nationalists- the leading ladies are non-conformist characters that are offensive to traditional Palestinian customs, and an Israeli soldier is an unforgiving rapist. My hope is that the true political message of harmony is recognized, but most importantly that the film’s integrity, beauty, and sensitivity are not forgotten amongst the swinging fists.
Lipstikka has one final TIFF performance on Sunday, September 18th at 1pm in AMC 10. I recommend getting in the rush line.
Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with Lipstikka’s director/writer, Jonathan Sagall.