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.