Cannes 2018: The true story of a Kurdish female battalion unfolds in this disappointing drama
Girls of the Sun is based on actual events from 2014 to 2015, which makes it all the more disappointing that it feels so hackneyed and sentimental. Bang Gang writer-director Eva Husson has taken the story of female Kurdish fighters and transformed it into an old-fashioned tearjerker, complete with a soaring orchestral score and rousing speeches. It could have been so much more.
Mathilde (Emmanuelle Bercot) is a battle-hardened war correspondent – a Marie Colvin-like figure who lost an eye in the fighting at Homs. Grieving for the death of her partner in Libya, she returns to western Kurdistan to write a story about a unit of Kurdish women. Their commander Bahar (Golshifteh Farahani), a former lawyer, has endured great personal tragedy. Every painful loss and harrowing ordeal has only made her more determined to play her part in the war against ISIS, especially as their fighters believe they will not go to paradise if they are killed by a woman.
Any sense of suspense in the long wait for battle is eroded by the film’s recourse to extensive flashbacks setting out Bahar’s past. Despite everything that has happened, including capture by ISIS, separation from her family and being held as a sex slave, Bahar cuts an impossibly glamorous figure, which does nothing to bolster the film’s credibility.
Girls of the Sun is undeniably earnest and well-intentioned but you long for the telling, unfamiliar details that would give it the sting of truth. Instead, it feels a little clunky and scenes that should bristle with tension tend to tip over into melodrama. Bercot and Farahani are both able actors but can make little headway against the clichéd, pedestrian screenplay. Perhaps Husson was so determined to convey the inspirational story of these warrior women that she lost sight of making a film worthy of them.
Screening as part of the Cannes Film Festival 2018. General release TBC.