Denis Villeneuve's `Incendies' is the story of a mothers death and her children's struggle to cope with their mothers last wishes in her will.
The mother is Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal), and her children are Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxime Gaudette). Jeanne and Simon discover that their mother's final wish is that they should deliver sealed letters to a father they believed to be dead and a brother they never knew existed. Nawals wish was that she be buried in unhallowed ground face down from the sun. If the letters are delivered, the mother will then permit herself a headstone and a customary burial.
It is not really a choice at all, and so the initial intrigue soon unfolds into a cryptic family mystery, to say too much would spoil the many revelations in an incredible story. Simon is extremely angry and seeks to defy her mothers wishes, but the lawyer forbids it as it was his mothers wish. Jeanne wants to find her father and brother, she knows that she needs to uncover her mothers past to find the clues needed to find her new family.
Jeanne's journey takes her to the Middle East, intercut with Nawal's story since she was a teenager. What follows is a series of personal disasters for Nawal, and ever-increasing revelations for Jeanne, as she travels throughout the region while her country falls further into a civil war. After slowly finding enough clues to start to patch together her mothers life, Jeanne pleads with Simon to come to her aid. Simon wants nothing more than to take Jeanne back home to Canada, but he realises that he must start his own journey to find his family. Jeanne and Simon uncover not only the traumatic life of their mother, but the horrific circumstances in which they came to be born, who their father is, and who their brother is.
`Incendies' may be melodramatic, contrived, even manipulative. It depends on how far you're willing to let this film `take' you. The film's structure has a few inconsistencies, and the final twist is created through a ridiculous set of coincidences that borders on the insane. The political and religious strand to the story may be slightly heavy-handed but it is symbolic not only within its own historical context but one that underlines the domino-effect of the children's and mothers journey. In the end, someone has to end the war and the hate, and Nawals incredible final wish was to do just that.
Unflinching and brutal, `Incendies' is a heartbreaking tragedy of epic proportions. The ending may seem far-fetched, but it still packs an emotional wallop that is hard to ignore, `Incendies' will certainly keep you thinking long after the film has finished.