Films are meant to serve a greater purpose than just to entertain. What decides that purpose is the story that it tells and the reason why the story needed to be told.
“You Resemble Me” tells a story that certainly needed to be told. A story that captures the coming-of-age of a Muslim woman in a society that is quick to condemn and radicalize her. It also attempts to tackle the media’s encouragement of bad narratives and misrepresentation of facts, especially in situations involving minorities.
When the film starts we see young Hasna (played by Lorenza Grimaudo), a French Arab girl. We can immediately tell she is conflicted and struggling with the life she is living. She has already concluded that she is not loved, needed or appreciated and is contemplating ending it all by throwing herself over the balcony. But then she has a younger sister Mariam (played by Illona Grimaudo) that she has to look out for and so she knows she can’t give up just yet.
Their mother Amina (played by Sana Sri), is simply nonchalant and unbothered about their and their brother’s needs. She emotionally abuses them and Hasna steps up against her leading to them getting thrown out of their home.
They end up on the streets and eventually in the custody of child protection services. Hasna and Miriam are separated and sent to different foster homes. Hasna is torn by both internal and external conflicts that lead her to make several wrong choices in life.
Even when we finally get introduced to the mature Hasna you see can tell that she has had in rough life. The only thing that seems to keep her hopeful is the thought of someday reconnecting with her sister Miriam. She wears her scares as much as she tries to pick herself up and be a better person, but she gets trodden over by society.
Somehow, her struggles are relatable especially for any Arab that finds themselves in Europe or any place for that matter. They often are misjudged and face all kinds of marginalization.
Hasan is a victim of her society and circumstances and so she is forced to make one wrong decision after the other. Eventually, she ends up in an unfortunate situation disguised as an opportunity for her resistance and redemption.
As a directorial debut for journalist now turned filmmaker, Dina Amer, “You Resemble Me” is a huge statement announcing her presence on the film scene. You can tell that she brought her journalistic instincts to bare in this film. You will realise that it is very well-researched, written and developed. She also does great at making sure the film stays natural and balanced devoid of any intentional or subtle agenda-setting.
You find yourself so engrossed in the film without even noticing that this film is about the real Hasna Ait Boulachen who is tagged by the media as “Europe’s First Female Suicide Bomber”. connected to the 2015 Bataclan theatre attacks in Paris. You do not even have to know about the real Hasna to enjoy and appreciate this film. It doesn’t immediately feel like a biopic.
How the film reveals itself to be more than just a drama about a young Arab woman trying to find herself in a chaotic society is another clever directorial feat on its own. You are taken on an emotional journey watching Hasna as she struggles with identifying herself and her purpose. As a viewer, you feel invested in that
Dina Amer uses an interesting way to capture how the media tried to portray Hasan when they weren’t even sure who she was. In the film, you will notice adult Hasan is played by three different women (Mouna Soualem, Sabrina Ouazani and Dina Amer herself), perhaps to reflect the internal struggles that Hasan has to deal with trying to identify who she is.
As the film ends the prospect shifts and it becomes more of a documentary about the real Hasan. There are appearances from her mother and father as well as her sister Miriam. They each share their thoughts on the media’s portrayal of Hasna as a terrorist.
You Resemble Me is a beautifully made film regardless. It channels the voices of many and seeks to serve not only as a cautionary tale but also as a clarion call for us to look beyond the headlines that are presented to us by the media.
It is difficult to easily understand everyone and their choices but it is unfair for us to be immediately dismissive and judgmental of them.
I would rate this 8/10.