War is often depicted through the eyes of those who have been engulfed in the frontlines the conflict. However, for his feature debut, director Oualid Mouaness takes a different path. He captures the sense of uncertainty and fear war brings through the lives of students and teachers at a private school.
Set in 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon, Mouaness’ film revolves around 11-year-old Wissam (Mohamad Dalli) as he works up the nerve to tell his crush, Joana (Gia Madi), how he feels. While young love consumes Wissam’s mind, his teachers, Yasmine (Nadine Labaki, actress-director of the Oscar-nominated Capernaum) and Joseph (Rodrigue Sleiman), have bigger concerns to deal with. As the thunderous roar of jets fly over head, and the sounds of bombs dropping inch closer, the pair find themselves at odds over how dire the situation really is.
By using Wissam as the focal point of the film, Mouaness effectively captures the slow erosion of innocence. As the young lad wrestles with the insecurity and obstacles that come with young love, 1982 builds its emotion earnestly. While the concept of love may seem enormous from a child’s perspective, Yasmine and Joseph represent the larger sense of uncertainty impacting Lebanon.
Yasmine perfectly encapsulates the inner conflict within the adults. Quietly trying to keep it together in front of the children, in hopes of maintaining calm and order, the agony on her face constantly betrays her. She is a stark contrast to Joseph whose paranoid and pragmatic ways serve as a constant warning sign for the pending danger.
Labaki and Sleiman are magnetic in their respective roles. Providing the right amount of measured emotion, they allow the complexities of the situation, and their characters’ relationship, to wash over the film naturally. An emotionally enthralling work, 1982 is a compelling portrait of youth, love and uncertainty in times of war.