In Costa Brava, Lebanon, the free-spirited Badri family escape the overwhelming pollution and social unrest of Beirut by seeking refuge in a utopic mountain home they built for themselves. Unexpectedly, an illegal garbage landfill begins construction right next door. With it comes the very trash and corruption they were trying to escape. As the landfill rises, so do family tensions. The Badris are left with a choice: stay off the grid or leave their idyllic home and face the reality they fled, hoping to stay true to their ideals.
Nadine Labaki (Capernaum) is Souraya is a well-known singer and activist who toured the world with her music. Her husband, Walid (Saleh Bakri, Wajib), leads the family to nature and a simpler way of life, but not without sacrifice. Directed by Mounia Akl (Submarine), Costa Brava, Lebanon is ultimately about what it takes for one family to come together and reaffirm their commitments to their values and to each other.
“A terrific feature debut from Mounia Akl which works both as a compelling domestic drama and an elegant political allegory. It’s a picture which has much to recommend it, not least the star power and chemistry of Labaki and Bakri. Costa Brava, Lebanon is also tonally intriguing, with a sense of besieged insularity, and layers of symbolism. Distinctive enough to make its mark with arthouse audiences, this is a film which could break out of the festival circuit with the support of an engaged distributor or streaming platform.”
SCREEN, Wendy Ide
“A heartfelt charmer. The way the film skews toward the personal and away from the overtly political can be attributed to the fine performances from its likable ensemble — well, that, and to Akl’s perceptive writing of this family as a collection of singular individuals who just so happen to be related to one one another… Labaki gives a warm, conflicted performance. Costa Brava, Lebanon is lightly embellished with magic realist flourishes, just as Nathan Larson’s pleasant score lets lightly humorous horns meld with more winsome, minor-key melodies. The gentle wisdom it contains is attuned to country, family and lifestyle choices as abstract concepts, as all the things we mean by the word “home,” which is where Akl’s heart is.”
VARIETY, Jessica Kiang
“A stellar near-future family drama. Mounia Akl’s feature début comfortably occupies a space between Beasts of the Southern Wild and Honeyland. Her film is partly magical, partly real, but total fiction, because fiction is the best way to capture the tragicomic clown show that unfolds throughout. Costa Brava, Lebanon possesses a literary quality, but never at the expense of cinema: Akl’s direction lets the story read easily and cleanly, without making the implicit explicit or insulting the audience. Her film has levels. Akl isn’t a humorless sort and finds laughs wherever she can. For a movie about government incompetence married to government malfeasance, Costa Brava, Lebanon is surprisingly funny. It’s clear-eyed, too, and above all sincere, which keeps its tender, vulnerable beats from getting anywhere near cornball territory. Costa Brava, Lebanon puts its characters on equal footing, and then keeps them grounded even in the film’s most dreamlike moments. That’s a feat worth celebrating as much as this is a film worth savoring.”
THE PLAYLIST, Andy Crump
“Costa Brava, Lebanon explores the existential struggle of a nation and becomes a nexus point for hope, despair, progress, and broken promises. Akl provides the scenario a keen insight that only someone going through the same push and pull as the characters could. Die alone or live together. It seems so simple a concept on paper, but Bakri and Labaki’s performances give it so much emotional heft that you can feel the weight of its importance, regardless of whether you’ve ever had to make a similar decision yourself. That Akl allows them the room for humor only adds to its resonance. The time is always now.”
THE FILM STAGE, Jared Mobarak
“Compelling. When it comes to individual people and their hopes, fears and desires, Akl has a talent for both the surreal flourish and the grounded insight.”
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, Keith Uhlich
“Mounia Akl has recruited two magnificent actors in Saleh Bakri and Nadine Labaki to give the utmost force to a metaphorical story on the search for happiness in a tortured country.”