- Emma Simmonds
- 4 November 2020
Andrea Riseborough is typically captivating in a subtle romantic drama set in the titular city
Spending time in the company of a cinematic enigma can be a fascinating or frustrating process. Luxor, from London-born filmmaker Zeina Durra, which follows a shellshocked British medic as she takes a break between war zones, isn't perfect but it errs toward the former. It's a stunningly shot and rather delicately conveyed film, worth checking out for a reliably captivating performance from star Andrea Riseborough.
Set in the titular Egyptian city, it sees Riseborough's tired and contemplative Hana revisiting ancient ruins after a period working in a war trauma unit on the Jordanian-Syrian border, where she has witnessed terrible things. After a surprise reunion, she rekindles a relationship with old flame Sultan (Karim Saleh), an archaeologist who she was in a relationship with in her twenties.
Durra (whose mother is Bosnian-Palestinian and father is Jordanian-Lebanese) is belatedly following up her 2010 debut feature The Imperialists Are Still Alive! here. Her sophomore film sometimes feels very natural, as it slowly fills us in on Hana's backstory, but there are stilted moments too and the romance doesn't come alive enough to provide the tension the narrative needs. Durra cultivates a lot of interest in her main character though, with Riseborough subtly affecting as someone often lost in thoughts we can't easily read, and credibly capturing more relatable moments of discomfort, embarrassment or drunkenness.
This pale protagonist with her blonde, scraped back hair and lack of make-up is both a perfect tonal match for the sandy, sun-bleached landscape and an anomaly amongst the locals; she's connected to and alienated from that which surrounds her. The city's intense energy relating to its long and storied past, plus the impact of Hana's personal history combine powerfully, exciting and unsettling our heroine and eventually forcing her to face her future. By taking a look at what a location can unlock, Luxor is an interesting and quite unusual examination of the effect a place can have on a person.
Available to watch via virtual cinemas and on demand from Fri 6 Nov. View the full list of participating cinemas.