The Damned Don’t Cry
In the land of souks, markets and chancers, the message is clear: the damned indeed do not cry, they persevere. British Moroccan filmmaker Fyzal Boulifa returns with his latest movie following the success of his BAFTA-nominated debut feature drama Lynn + Lucy, this time encapsulating this very meaning.
Fatima-Zahra (Aicha Tebbae) and her teenage son Selim (Abdellah El Hajjouji) understand that they must make their own luck in this world to survive. Moving from place to place in search of a better life, and running away from Fatima-Zahra’s latest problems, Selim is treated as a pawn. When he discovers the truth about his mother’s more sordid past, he vows to take control of the family’s prospects by finding work, but before long finds himself slipping down a similar path to younger Fatima-Zahra, pushing their relationship to breaking point.
You make your own luck in this world and you have to admire the courage and drive of each character. For many in Morocco, life tells a very different story depending on how you choose to live it. Fatima-Zahra is practically estranged from her own family because she wishes to live a more glamorous existence, perhaps more commonly associated with a Western lifestyle. But to achieve this she has had to go to some dark, non-hilal places. Throughout The Damned Don’t Cry, we find ourselves asking what it is that Fatima is actually searching for in this latter part of her life, and when will we actually get to find out? Boulifa chooses to curve the narrative away from her and towards her son Selim, which is undeniably more interesting, but nonetheless leaves a few character motivations left uncovered.
That life is a wearisome endeavour for the characters, permeates the screen, at times weighing heavily on the viewer. The slow to steady pace, interjected with dialogue, is quite abruptly written and it is often hard to know whether Selim is coming or going, quite literally. This said, both Tebbae and El Hajjouji are very good and tasked with delivering some incredibly powerful scenes with each other, especially once Selim falls down the wrong path, pulling him away from his mother. The world and Western society have treated them badly, moulding them into the products of their manipulators, but once formed, it is almost impossible for them to change the person they have become. Sex sells and both Selim and Fatima-Zahra know this too well.
The Damned Don’t Cry is a tableau of sadness and suffering, as much as it is about determination. What is most concerning and unnerving is how accurately the character representations in this fictitious story might be reflected in society. This is something we may never know or truly understand, but Boulifa has certainly raised it to our attention and we are listening.
The Damned Don’t Cry is released in select cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema on 7th July 2023.
Watch the trailer for The Damned Don’t Cry here: