Incendies (Scorched) is a Canadian film produced in 2010. Adapted from the 2005 play of the same title by Wajdi Mouawad, it is written and directed by Denis Villeneuve. It stars Lubna Azabal, Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gaudette, and Remy Girard. It is currently showing at Market Street Cinema in Little Rock.
The film is centered around the life of a woman named Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal). The film begins with her death in Canada. Her two adult children Jeanne (Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) attend a reading of her will by Notary Jean Lebel (Remy Girard), whom Nawal worked for as a secretary the previous eighteen years. Jeanne and Simon learn they have a older brother and that their father is still alive. Their mother is originally from an unnamed Middle Eastern country (the name of the country itself is never mentioned in the film), and the back-story of her life is almost entirely unknown to her children. Nawal has written and sealed two letters to be opened only by the intended recipients: one to her son, and the other to the father of her children. Jeanne decides to obey her mother’s wishes and take the journey to Nawal’s homeland. Simon initially stays behind, but is later convinced to join her sister on the journey.
The film goes back and forth between the present-day quest and Nawal’s past. As Jeanne and Simon uncover secret after secret, we see Nawal’s life unfold. We see her first pregnancy that became a family scandal (she and her family is Christian, but her boyfriend was a Muslim). She gives the child up for adoption and leaves her village to live with family in a nearby city. Civil war later breaks out between the Christian Nationalists and Muslim rebels. Nawal is initially hopeful for a peaceful resolution between the two sides, but later joins the rebels after witnessing some particularly brutal acts of violence by the Nationalists. Jeanne and Simon encounter several road-blocks, as few people are willing to talk about that period of time, and even fewer are willing to talk about Nawal. Though slowly but surely, the twins uncover the truth.
This is a fantastic movie. The two leads in Lubna Azabal and Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin give strong performances. The climax of the film is almost something out of a Greek tragedy, but even that isn’t the best part. The film ends with Nawal’s wishes come to fruition, and with it a final act of kindness, humanity, and love powerful enough to cut through the endless cycles of violence and war that plagued the first half of Nawal’s life. Five stars. You absolutely need to see this film. I mean it!