An elegantly gentle and disquietingly powerful film about family and displacement, Oscar-winning filmmaker Megan Mylan’s film - which world premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York – details the story of four Syrian families as they deal with the repercussions of a seemingly perpetual war.
From Turkey to Greece and from Germany to the US, the film details the bond of close relatives but does so in a modest, almost minimalist way, gently and subtly focussing on the families in a way that provides both insight and compassion yet avoids screen manipulation.
Director Megan Mylan won an Academy Award for her short film Smile Pinki and an Independent Spirit Award for the feature Lost Boys of Sudan, which was also short-listed for an Oscar, and with Simple As Water she refines her cinematic eye with this meditation on the bonds of family.
While the globetrotting element of the film might hint at a film of large scale and provocative narrative, in fact Mylan’s gentle tone and focus on the human realities helps make film more intimate as it ask sits audience to engage with a disparate family still patiently hoping for a positive transition from a period of war. There are no talking heads to distract from its theme.
The often modest dramas of family life are what transport the story, and while it is often driven by strong and silent visuals, the film us also punctuated with powerful musical sequences from composer Hanan Townsend, a regular collaborator with director Terence Malick.
The film’s cinematic restraint can, at times, lead to moments when the pace slows, but the heart is resolutely in the right place and by eschewing easy sentimentality Mylan has brought the focus on motherly love and family guidance and support as a way of building resilience from the memory of harrowing times.
Syria-USA, 2021, 97mins
Dir Megan Mylan
Production Principe Productions
Producers Robin Hessman, Megan Mylan
Cinematography Lars Skree, Rafia Salameh, Michael Chin
Editors Purcell Carson, Megan Mylan
Music Hanan Townsend