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Sundance 2020 Review: "Luxor" (2020) ★★★


It must be difficult to deal with past choices that leave us with only regrets. Those are the feelings we all can relate to once we reach a certain age where we do not feel quite fulfilled with life. This again may not be relatable to everyone but it certainly touches “Luxor’s” protagonist, Hana, played by Andrea Riseborough, who will have to do lots of thinking before she finds the right path that can help her to succeed as a woman.

Hana, a British aid worker, returns to the ancient city of Luxor. As she wanders around, looking at the historic sites of the wonderful city, she had no idea that her melancholic mood will get worse after meeting her former lover, Sultan (Karim Saleh). As the two begin revisiting their past and discuss their present, the woman dives deep into the mood of dissatisfaction to begin questioning whether all the sacrifices she has made were worthwhile when all that she got in return was the emptiness of her soul.

“Luxor” from writer/director Zeina Durra is a slow-burning drama that concentrates more on the inner world of Hana, telling the story from her perspective. When we meet Sultan, he is happy, has achieved many things in life, became a successful archeologist, but is still single. While his current marital status may not define anything, it speaks volumes when the two begin discussing at what stage they both found each other in their lives. We learn that Hana was 22 when she met the young and promising Sultan while he was 23. It was not revealed how long their relationship lasted but it was clearly enough for the two to reconsider the revival of that moment of happiness both are in need of.

It is hard to explain the narrative which occurs in “Luxor” as it is something you will have to watch yourself. It’s not one of those pieces that will open widely; Durra’s film is aimed at only certain audiences that like to watch deeply unfolding human stories where actions speak louder than words. For instance, Andrea Riseborough is always distracted; she can’t pay attention to something fully as every single touch or story reminds her of where she is and the uncertainty of the future due to her past. She is an incredibly lonely woman who wants to find refuge somewhere in somebody’s hands. We don’t yet know whether Sultan can provide that much-needed refuge to her, but as the film suggests, he might well be the one who can bring a smile to Hana’s face which is getting more forced than real.

In the end, “Luxor” is a solid melodrama about the past and the future, happiness and sadness, poor choices and its aftermath. The female-oriented storyline helps the male audience to understand women better while doing the same with its male character, who also wants to find serenity in his life, but never realized it. It’s more about how two people handle a similar situation and their way of responding to it which makes Durra’s film an interesting piece to watch. As for the takeaway, there is a lot can be said about it but I would rather have you arrive at this point after seeing the movie in the right mindset so that you could fully enjoy it the way I did.

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