Eye of Juliet showcases director Nguyen’s master storytelling
You have to hand it to Montreal filmmaker Kim Nguyen. His latest film, “Eye on Juliet,” is dazzlingly original, an unconventional love story of sorts that never fails to surprise.
From the get-go, when a dance club breakup between Detroit protagonist Gordon (Joe Cole) and his girlfriend jumps to a scene set in North Africa, you’re wondering how these two storylines are going to intersect. Have faith. Nguyen, who wrote the screenplay, is a master storyteller.
Immersed in grief, Gordon continues his job at a hightech company which uses spider-like robots to monitor a pipeline a world away — a pipe plagued by thieves seeking to tap into its black bounty. The robots are very cool, equipped with voice capability in various languages and weapons lethal enough to respond to those who don’t heed the warning to am-scray.
Meanwhile, Ayusha (Lina El Arabi) toils away at a menial job while having clandestine meetings with Karim (Faycal Zeglat), a paramour her parents don’t approve of. It is the kind of anguished love that Joe, who watches covertly through the robot’s eyes, understands too well. When Ayusha’s parents introduce her to the older man they insist that she marry, the young lovers plan their escape to Europe and freedom. But the money needed will require desperate measures.
The cinematography of Christophe Collette captures the stark, varied beauty of the African landscape and the score by Toronto band Timber Timbre captures the mood of tortured passion and longing.
Cole is exceptionally fine as Gordon, with a stillness hinting at deep wells of both pain and compassion, commanding the screen with an affecting simplicity and honesty. El Arabi conveys the anguish of Ayusha, whose dilemma mirrors the Shakespearean character of the title — a woman in love but trapped by the dictates of others.
Nguyen, a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee for Rebelle (2012), demonstrates superb storytelling at every turn, including a scene when a robot controlled by Gordon assists an old blind man who has lost his way. Their conversation is pure and poignant.
The sublime conclusion may even renew your faith in hope and love.
Lina El Arabi in Eye on Juliet