Memory Box

Reviewed by Vaughan Ames

Our last film of the year was a very clever mix of present-day Canada and 80s Lebanese civil war, all mixed together with pictures from scrap books, Facebook images, cassette tape recordings and even text messages. How did this all work?

The story: Maia's father has been killed in the civil war when she is a teenager. She and her mother Teta move to Montreal to escape the fighting. Years later when Maia herself is a mother to Alex, a box arrives at Maia's house full of photographs, tapes and letters she had sent to her best friend Liza who escaped to France in the 80s – teenage memories of love and war. It turns out that Liza has just died. Maia forbids Alex to look at them... so, naturally, she does!

What she discovers is that her 'boring' mother had the normal teenage life even though there was a war; partying, smoking and listening to music, and even falling in love with Raja despite her parents forbidding their meetings… so her Mum was just like Alex! Eventually Maia relents and talks to Alex about her past and the film ends with the pair of them going to Beirut for Liza's funeral...where Maia meets up with all her old friends and, especially, Raja, who she had not had any contact with since Lebanon. Some beautiful pictures of Lebanese sunsets end the film to show that life goes on…

How did it work? All this 'discovery' was done in the movie by showing thousands of photos and letters and listening to cassettes; many of the images then 'came to life' and we followed Maia as a young girl falling in love whilst hiding from the bombs in cellars (very redolent of Ukraine today; when will we ever learn?). In the present-day Alex is texting her friends with her findings ("She smoked! She told she never had!") It was all beautifully seamless, though, for me, there was possibly a bit too many photos, not enough 'coming to life'.

Was it good? An unusual and very interesting film with some great music, it certainly left me feeling good; a great end to our year.