Eye of Juliet show­cases di­rec­tor Nguyen’s mas­ter sto­ry­telling

Waterloo Region Record - - Nightlife - BRUCE DEMARA Toronto Star

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.

EN­TER­TAIN­MENT ONE SÉBASTIEN RAY­MOND

Lina El Arabi in Eye on Juliet

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