The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - YOU RESEMBLE ME | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - YOU RESEMBLE ME

You Resemble Me review
A young Parisian woman becomes radicalised.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Dina Amer

Starring: Lorenza Grimaudo, Ilonna Grimaudo, Mouna Soualem, Sabrina Ouazani, Dina Amer

You Resemble Me poster

Part of my day job involves volunteer work with young people. Rewarding graft, yes, but also edifying in that you get a sense of what's going on with dem youth: the new trends, the latest fashions etc. Who's in and who the fuck's out, and at the moment, the big name on everybody's lips is some bean headed rapist jailed in Romania who had hitherto set himself up as a lifestyle guru for the gullible and feeble of mind (to avoid adding to the profile I'm not typing their name - you know who I'm on about, and if not just google "smalldickenergy"). And by everybody, I mean of course adolescent boys, with all their attendant insecurities and pubescent anxieties. It's all you hear; an almost unanimous, unthinking fealty to this absolute clown. He’s a "nice guy looking out for his bros" (lol). He's the "Top G" (cringe). He's jailed because "the authorities" want to keep him down (jfc, kid). The attitude of some of these boys towards their female counterparts has demonstrably changed, too, and you worry also how far the unseen influence goes, and where it will ultimately lead to. "Something Must Be Done" people flap, which usually ends up as impotent proposals to regulate internet access. I'm not so sure myself - censure will only embiggen smalldickenergy's constructed outlaw status. Also, this sort of radicalisation (not too strong a word) can only ever tap into a pre-existing malaise: the contemporary worries of teen boys are being assuaged, and they are seemingly being told what they really, really want to hear. The rot is deep. Mind you, it was only a few years ago they were all gaga about fidget spinners, which they then suddenly tired of after a couple of months...

You Resemble Me review

The fad is instructive. It tells us that this sort of cult affiliation, this indoctrination, is in no way particular to any one culture. That moral relativism, low self-esteem and the sensation of being side-lined in one's own society, and the extreme mindsets which such perceived relegation leads to, is a universal contention. Which [spoilers ahead, if you want to go in completely cold] leads us to You Resemble Me, the startling debut feature from Dina Amer (with writing duties shared by Omar Mullick), a thoughtful and humane study of true-life radicalisation.

We follow the story of Hasna and Mariam, two little French-Moroccan kids growing up in marginalised poverty in Paris. Listen, I love the French, with their yellow headlamps, Isabelle Hupperts and elevation of cinema to an artform but their urban slums really are some of the grimmest on screen. None of the cosy, chunky brutalism of the British council estates; the high rises here are washed out concrete and hard isolation. Not that this bothers Hasna and Mariam, who dress each other in colourful frocks which contrast their pale surroundings, and dance about the streets in intuitive defiance of their restricted environs. However, their mum is violent and ill-equipped for her role, and, after the girls running away and Hasna telling all to the Gendarmes, social services intervene and the girls are taken away from home, split up and placed within different families.

You Resemble Me review

Amer positions this incident as the first step towards little Hasna becoming the adult Hasna Aït Boulahcen, who was reported as a suicide bomber in Saint-Denis in the aftermath of the November 2015 Paris attacks. Following these early presentations of Hasna's alienation we cut forward 15 or so years, where Hasna is now a street sex worker and drug addict. The time switch happens after a scene suggesting Hasna's rape as a child and continues to be necessarily unpleasant. Previously a journalist, one imagines that Amer's representations are duly researched, and that the sexual exploitation and abuse we see Hasna experience at the hands of men has grounding in actual events. I'll tell you something: it made me angry and want to see the perpetrators suffer, and suffer a lot, and I'm just sat there watching it from a safe distance. Mouna Soualem's portrayal of Hasna is instrumental to the emotional engagement You Resemble Me engenders. In one of the performances of the year, Soualem is completely riveting, explicating how Hasna is a consequence of her environment.

As each card falls, Hasna's mental state and desperation is convincingly relayed: her sex work past interferes with legitimised employment, there is lingering prejudice concerning her class, and more upfront bigotry regrading her ethnicity. A consistent motif throughout the film is one of dressing up, of transformation, from the clothes the little sisters wear, to the cowboy hat Hasna clings to throughout her life, to the enforced straightening of her hair. In the paranoid des rues of You Resemble Me, identity is either weaponised or suppressed. Accordingly, the film suggests that Hasna's affiliation with ISIS is little to do with religion or even ideology. Instead, the sect offers Hasna something which her present social context actively discourages: self-esteem and a sense of purpose.

You Resemble Me review

In an atomised society, in which various interested parties have divided us in order to conquer, you fret that extremity could become the mode du jour, a concern stoked this last month by the stubborn celebration of a jailed alleged rapist, and every other day by the consistent and seething anger of social media. In this assured debut, there are occasional missteps that threaten the otherwise chilling plausibility, chiefly in the presentation of the bourgeois family who foster Hasna. For some reason, they serve the Muslim Hasna a non-festive pork for Christmas dinner and the dad pointedly reads Charlie Hebdo: in a film where characterisation is otherwise subtly inexorable, the wilful ignorance of the family doesn't convince. A quibble, as You Resemble Me is a film everyone should see, not just for its carefully constructed drama, but its uncomfortably urgent implications.

You Resemble Me is in UK cinemas and on VOD from February 3rd.

2023 movie reviews