The Movie Waffler New Release Review [VOD] - LUXOR | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review [VOD] - LUXOR

luxor film review
A British aid worker reconnects with a former lover in the ancient Egyptian city of Luxor.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Zeina Durra

Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Karim Saleh, Shereen Reda, Michael Landes, Salima Ikram

luxor film poster

Anyone fancy a cheeky getaway to Luxor, the city on the east bank of the Nile River in southern Egypt which surrounds two huge, surviving ancient monuments: Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple, a mile north? (information via Google). Could be just the ticket as the nights draw in and this weather carries on... Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen, cool linens and heavy emotional baggage though!

In the film Luxor, directed and written by Zeina Durra, we centre on Hana, played by Andrea Riseborough (in all her irreproachable Andrea Riseboroughness), who is spending time in said city.

luxor film review

Although there are elements of a travelogue to Luxor, the open glory and historical beauty narratively juxtaposes Hana’s pensive, pinched manner. It transpires that Hana is a trained doctor and a former aid worker. She is staying in Luxor in an attempt to decamp from her past, where she witnessed some unnamed but surely atrocious incidents. However, the thing about the past is that, seeing as the future is anyone’s guess and the present never sticks around long enough, is that it is pretty hard to shake. The city of Luxor, with its rich and visible histories, becomes a metaphor for the inescapability of Hana’s former life.


Not helping the whole escaping bad memories bid is the appearance of gorgeous Sultan, Hana’s ex (played by Karim Saleh, who reminded me of the lovable stand up/filmmaker Brett Goldstein). This beguiling revenant bumps into Hana during a boat trip upon the Nile, giving further emotional weight to Durra’s meditations upon the persistence of time gone. Sultan and Hana had a thing in their twenties, and it is pretty clear from Riseborough’s meticulously subtle emoting that feelings still linger on both sides (unless she fell in the water at seeing him, of course, in which case she would be in de...  oh, forget it). As the two tentatively rekindle their relationship they take in the sights of Luxor, which, mercifully for them, are free of the thronging tourists that normally swarm upon such places.

luxor film review

Luxor is the sort of film that mills dramatic grist from this sort of when-will-they-they-will-won’t-they? dynamic, which is, of course, given significance by Hana’s low-key PTSD. Sultan is a right old charmer though, mumbling figuratively about the city, that how lovely it is that something so beautiful is flawed. Oh Sultan, stop!


Hana gloomily quotes Gramsci, and when the two share cigarettes at a bar, it is framed as a moment of rebellious emancipation (the manner in which the symbolic relevance of the cigarette has developed and been adapted in cinema is intriguing: a cigarette, also puffed in Egypt, has similar coded properties at the end of this month’s Rebecca). It’s all rather ponderous, but in a pleasing, gentle way. The chemistry of the leads is amiable and credible, and the film, which makes the most of its picturesque locations, is nice to look at, too. Durra never overlabours Hana’s condition, and is wise enough to allow Riseborough’s performance, with her pristine gangliness and spooked eyes, to do the heavy lifting.

luxor film review

You’ll leave Luxor with a hankering to visit its sand blasted temples, its late-night rivers and expansive hotel pools. But whether you’ll actually want to watch the film itself in the first place depends upon your mileage with this sort of personal, slow burn production.

Luxor is on UK/ROI release from November 6th through virtual screenings, including Curzon Home Cinema, BFI Player and local cinemas listed on modernfilms.com.

2020 movie reviews