You Resemble Me

You Resemble Me from the award-winning journalist Dina Amer is split into two disparate halves: a meditative childhood drama and a gritty documentary-esque investigation of ISIS indoctrination. Written by Amer and the film’s cinematographer, Omar Mullick, the potent film draws from the life of suicide bomber Hasna Aït Boulahcen, killed in the aftermath of Paris’ 2015 Bataclan attacks. Using hours of interviews conducted with her family and friends, Amer portrays her journey toward radicalization with an empathetic eye. 

Amer anchors the beginning of You Resemble Me in the innocent perspective of Hasna as a child. The untethered camera bounces at her eye level as she wanders through the intimidating streets of Paris with her younger sister. They wear matching dresses and look so alike that they appear to be twins. The intimate close-ups of the young girls’ sweet, vulnerable faces immerse the viewer in their compassionate and tight-knit relationship. The glimpses we get of Hasna’s home life are gut-wrenching; she lives in a tiny home with several other siblings and a raging mother that loathes her children. Her mother forgets her youngest daughter’s birthday and kicks Hasna out of the house with chilling cruelty. Lorenza Grimaudo perfectly embodies Hasna’s rage, confusion, and impenetrable sadness as she is eventually separated from her sister in a different foster home and struggles to find her place in the world.

After this engrossing opening, the jangly second half of You Resemble Me shows Hasna as an adult who has lost touch with her dear sister. Like many young women who have been through the foster care system, she deals with economic strife and suffers from abuse at the hands of men. During this section of the film, Amer uses the experimental device of having Hasna’s face shapeshift between three different actresses (including Amer herself) at random moments. It is more confusing than a strong visual metaphor for Hasna’s broken psyche. Mouna Soualem mainly portrays Hasna, and she conveys the inner turmoil that makes her eventual change believable. 

Hasna tries to find a sense of purpose and kinship by joining the French army, but she is rejected for being too open-hearted about her traumatic past. Her only solace, lit up by the bright glow of the computer screen, are social media videos of her jihadist cousin. His radical, irate words attach to her pain and loneliness like a leech. You Resemble Me quickly unfolds into a psychological thriller where Hasna spirals further down the ISIS pipeline. 

You Resemble Me is at its most affecting and powerful during the quieter childhood sequences. Despite the disordered second half, You Resemble Me is an audacious work from a first-time filmmaker. This hard-hitting film dares to address the idea that there is more to someone than just their misdeeds—no matter how “evil” they may be. With an artful sensitivity, Amer illustrates how easily someone can be indoctrinated, especially if they are born into poverty and abuse. Her courageous vision forces viewers to mourn their inner child that the world betrays.

Take the Night

At the heart of Seth McTigue’s (writer/director/producer/star) taut thriller Take the Night is strife between two brothers. They have been torn apart by the overpowering presence of their (recently deceased) father who had a clear favorite son. The young and playful Robert Chang (Sam Song Li) surpassed his resentful and irresponsible brother William (Roy Huang) for a pivotal role in their family’s major company. When Robert is accosted by masked gunmen and put in a car trunk, the audience assumes it’s foul play likely at the hands of his brother.

McTigue consistently toys with viewers’ expectations throughout the film. We eventually learn that William hired four men to stage a fake kidnapping for his brother’s birthday—a strange, high-adrenaline kind of gift that only a wealthy person would think of. Once these men realize the bountiful fortune the Chang family rests on, they decide to kidnap Robert for real. The group consists of down-on-their-luck men. There’s another pair of brothers, Chad (Seth McTigue) and Todd (Brennan Keel Cook), who are just as fraught as the Changs. While dealing with PTSD from the war, Chad must reel in his impulsive, childish brother. Justin served with Chad and now refuses to speak. An injury prevented Shannon (Shomari Love) from his NBA dreams. All of these actors deliver solid and pensive performances that draw sympathy for their characters despite their misdeeds. 

Take the Night leaves a lot of questions unanswered and attempts to build to a surprising twist. McTigue crafts slick car chase scenes that have a cool sheen and are gripping to watch. Jonas Wikstrand’s score, reminiscent of Hans Zimmer’s Dark Knight trilogy, adds a propulsive feeling to the action. In his clever script, McTigue gradually goes back and forth through time to unwind revelations about his protagonist’s motivations. Take the Night is an intriguing and atmospheric mixture of tense excitement and mystery laced with sentimentality about dissonant family relationships, elevating it above the average crime film.