Lebanese drama Tramontane questions the value of truth, but very very slowly [Review]

By Ben Young

A blind adoptee discovers his past is a lie and goes on a trip to find out his true origins

By Ben Young |

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Barakat Jabbour plays lead character Rabih and it's his musical performances that will stay with you after the film.

Tramontane is, if nothing else, an educational film that explores the importance of things that we often take for granted – such as the ability to see, and a sense of identity.

The Lebanese indie-drama flim is both the story of a young man’s journey of self-discovery, and a close look at the immense difficulties Lebanon had to endure following its civil war from 1975-1990.

The plot revolves around a 24-year-old blind musician named Rabih, who lives with his adoptive mother. However, his world is turned upside down when he discovers that contrary to what he has believed his whole life, he was not rescued from a burning village as a baby during the war. He undertakes a road trip across Lebanon to find out the truth about who he really is.

As the movie progresses, Rabih becomes less and less sure of his origins, and begins to question how much “the truth” even matters. Tensions also begin to rise between Rabih and his adoptive mother, Samar. Although she raised and loved him as if he were really her own, Rabih is mad at her for lying to him for all these years. This begs the complicated ethical question – is lying to spare someone’s feelings really justified?

A highlight of the film is definitely Barakat Jabbour’s thoughtful and passionate portrayal of Rabih. He does this not just with his acting, but also his musical talent, as there are several instances where he electrifies the otherwise slow-paced film with jaw-dropping traditional Lebanese musical performances.

The movie’s pace is lackadaisical and the narrative is clunky at times, which is understandable considering it was director Vatche Boulghourjian’s first feature-length film.

The movie is extremely different from your typical Hollywood drama – there is no action, romance and there is only a relatively small amount of verbal conflict. However, this also makes it a breath of fresh air, and it is nice to see a movie that is both unique from a cultural sense (how many Lebanese films have you ever seen?) and also, for its ability to interest the viewers despite not using any of the usual “tools”.

Tramontane is definitely worth watching if you want a break from mainstream movies and you’re in the mood for something authentic. However, if you want to watch a movie strictly for thrills, you had better look elsewhere.

Edited by Jamie Lam