A story of abuse with a hopeful message


By: Quentin Champy

Review of ‘Are You Glad I’m Here‘. Directed by Lebanese American Noor Gharzeddine and written by Samuel Cyrenius Anderson and released in April 2018.  It’s a drama, shot in Beirut, about a millennial American girl (Tess Harrisson) who befriends a Lebanese housewife (Marwa Khalil) and disrupts her ordered life. One night they become accidental partners-in-crime.

In Lebanon, on the edges of Beirut, Kirsten (Tess Harrison) is a twenty-four-year old American teaching English, however she is already planning to move elsewhere, wanting more experiences in her life. She lives in a school sponsored apartment, across the hall from Lebanese housewife Nadine (Marwa Khalil), who is raising her young son Rami (Charbel Makhlouf). Nadine the long suffering wife of Pierre (Najeeb Zeitouni), an alcoholic, philandering man who abuses her. Kirsten and Nadine develop a friendship and as the younger woman tries to help her friend trapped in a cycle of domestic violence, it has drastic consequences.

A story based on an chance encounter.

“The story was developed by Samuel Anderson, our screenwriter, and I. We wanted to make a film in Lebanon, where my family is from and where he had studied Arabic. We were interested in telling a story about the nuance and complexity of these two very different women and in exploring what a friendship between them would entail” explain us Noor Gharzeddine.

“As a Lebanese American it was also important for me to make a film in Lebanon; a film that bridged two cultures and was easily accessible to both audiences. Because I grew up in a bilingual household I also felt like it was important and natural to make a bilingual film, and it was always something I wanted to do.”

While it’s a harrowing story, it’s also a savage black comedy with moments that feel as if ripped from a Coen Brothers film, yet Gharzeddine never lets it stray too far. There’s an absolutely sensational moment when Nadine’s brother arrives at her home after she calls him in desperation, bringing two friends. While he simply holds her in his arms in a powerfully upsetting sequence, what’s happening around him is equally distressing. 

The film tackles such important topics as domestic violence, alcoholism and family relationships in a novel way. However we do not learn much about the the characters daily struggles, the film is more concerned with the friendship between Kirsten and Nadine. The film carries a positive message around the friendship of these two women whose goals are about to be achieved, but not without any unexpected consequences.

See the trailer:

Are You Glad I’m Here, official teaser trailer from Noor Gharzeddine on Vimeo.

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