Here Comes the Rain -- Film Review

Poignant tale of a kidnapping victim is dignified but uninvolving.

ABU DHABI — Winner of the Best Arab Feature at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, “Here Comes the Rain” centers on a sensitive political topic, namely, the estimated 10,000 people still missing nineteen years after the the war officially ended in Lebanon. Many are kidnapping vicims who are possibly dead, or languishing in secret jails. Yet despite its dramatic subject, which recalls many fine films from South America, the story comes off as a little flat and uninvolving for audiences unfamiliar with the historical background. Film’s obvious sincerity and able craftsmanship should earn it some festival berths.

Director Bahij Hojeij (“Ring of Fire”) uses conventional psychological realism to describe the anguish of two families when one missing man unexpectedly returns home. Less complex than the Syrian “The Long Night,” which looked at the difficulties faced by a political prisoner who gets released as an elderly man, the Lebanese film evokes pity for the plight of Ranaz (Hassan Mrad), who had been kidnapped by a militia 20 years earlier. Suddenly released from a dank, overcrowded prison, he returns to his modern family practically unrecognizable, a dinosaur from a time long past.

By chance, he meets an unhappy young woman, Zeinab (Carmen Lebbos), whose husband was kidnapped under similar circumstances. Unable to relate to his family, he finds relief in Zeinab’s company, and their warm, platonic relationship proves healing for both.

The story is framed by inserts of an attractive young  woman (based on a historical person) typing heart-breaking letters to a newspaper in 1984, demanding her kidnapped son be returned to her.

None of this reaches the level of gripping drama, though an excellent cast (including Julia Kassar as the man’s desperate wife and young Bernadette Hodeib as their alienated daughter) makes the story poignantly believable.  Maxime Heraud’s stylish camerawork gives the film a particular light and dark look.

Production company: Online Films-Beirut
Cast: Hassan Mrad, Julia Kassar, Carmen Lebbos, Bernadette Hodeib, Elie Mitri, Diamand Bou Aboud
Director: Bahij Hojeij
Screenwriters: Bahij Hojeij, Sam Bardawil, Imane Humaydan
Producer: Bahij Hojeij
Director of photography: Maxime Heraud
Production designer: Georges Salem
Music: Wissam Hojeij
Editor: Michele Tayan
Sales Agent: Screen Institute Beirut
No rating, 100 minutes

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