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October 20, 2014

Film + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia


A title symbolic of the transition to womanhood (well, according to director Jonathan Sagall), Lipstikka tells the story of two Palestinian women living seemingly normal lives in London. Lara (Clara Khoury), an outwardly happy wife and mother has an unexpected visitor in the form of her estranged friend Inam (Nataly Attiya).

The air of awkwardness that fills Lara´s immaculate and appropriately cold entrance hall stems back to a traumatic event back when they were full of youthful innocence. Canadian filmmaker Sagall chronicles the event from two different perspectives in the form of flashbacks. In his sophomore outing, he has created an imperfectly watchable drama.

Colour-flushed, the movie is perhaps a representation of how life can throw two close friends in widely different directions whilst still echoing the same emotional trauma. The tones of grey clinging to Lara´s gaunt and uncomfortable figure powerfully sets the scene for their adulthood.

Inam, on the other hand, is a playful oddity as she tries to rekindle the friendship they once had but behind her vivacious façade is a woman consumed by her past. The two women communicate in two different ways: one is fighting to disengage and the other desperately trying to start over.

Growing up in Ramallah in Palestine, Lara and Inam became close in an environment where their ethnicity and sexuality (however confused) only made them feel more alienated. Everything changes when one evening the girls go to a neighbouring Israeli town to watch a film (Lethal Weapon!?) only to be met by two Israeli soldiers as they make their way back home.

From here the story is open to interpretation and Sagall leaves it up to the audience to decide whether the soldiers were charming or insistent or if “it” was wanted or unwanted. Moran Rosenblatt who plays teenage Inam is particularly engaging as a girl beginning to understand her sexuality and wanting to control it.

We gain insight into their lives at various points revealing secrets that have made them the modern day shadows that now just exist lifelessly. As hard as they try to escape their past they are trapped in its consequences.

It is an honest portrayal of how many cope with trauma in life: acceptance or rejection. Lara seems resigned to a loveless life with her husband whereas Inam refuses to accept the sands of time. Khoury and Attiya delicately bring life to their characters despite a clunky and sometimes hammy script (“You deserve to have everything you want.” “So why can´t I have you?”).


What is somewhat intriguing is Sagall´s decision to make a movie based on two Palestinian women whilst creating no political voice whatsoever. Many would have hoped for political commentary but I appreciated his efforts in keeping the movie unbiased. The story focuses on the dynamic between the two women, their every action interlinked and continually drawing them towards each other.

It is an absorbing watch with the lead roles played with great control and Sagall spoon feeding us information with strong, thoughtful visuals that build up to a strong finale. Lipstikka is a worthy character study into the complexities of friendship and the twists and turns life inevitably takes.

is available for digital download on October 20th

Sean Mackenney