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Review: Luxor – “A story that is driven by beautifully realised characters”

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Luxor is a film directed by Zeina Durra and stars Andrea Riseborough (Possessor, The Death Of Stalin) as Hana, a British surgeon who is an aid worker in the war-torn areas of the middle east. While on leave, she returns to the city of Luxor, a place where she spent time in her twenties. As she walks the city rediscovering long-forgotten memories, she reconnects with archaeologist and former lover Sultan (Karim Saleh). Their friendship and love rekindles as Hana tries to come to terms with the horrors of war that she has recently encountered and her own insecurities about the choices of the past, her present situation and where her life will go from here.

Riseborough is wonderfully cast as Hana, a woman who inhabits both a sense of assured stability as a doctor, but also as someone who in their personal life is adrift. In just a distant look or a connection with children laughing she conveys someone who is at a time in their life where direction, commitment and long-term goals have an encroaching sense of urgency. Her performance is natural, understated with the odd moment of comedy born from an underlying pathos. She continues to go from strength to strength with recent brilliant turns in The Death Of Stalin and the incredible Possessor.

The film takes its time and is hypnotic where moments of reflection give way to haunting inner voices as Hana wanders through ancient Egyptian tombs and passageways. The past is always there, informing the present and guiding us towards the future. Luxor is itself built on the site of ancient Thebes, the Pharaohs’ centre of power and resting place. The sense of the ancient sewn into the fabric of the modern world is a key theme that runs through the film. It is no coincidence that her former lover is an archaeologist.

Luxor explores the notion of reigniting a love from a long time in the past as Hana guards herself against the inherent risks of being hurt all over again. She has moved on, both emotionally and literally. But Sultan (played with great charm and charisma by Saleh), the Archaeologist ex-boyfriend has remained in Luxor, with the artefacts buried away in the ground. He even stays at the same hotel as they did years ago because of as he tells her, the wonderful memories he has there. He embraces his memories and past where Hana as hidden many of these memories and much of her past away, unable to remember significant trips they took together years ago.

The cinematography by Zelmira Gainza is rich, sumptuous and imbued with all the colours such a beautiful looking city such as Luxor has to offer. There is obviously a deep affection and love for this city at the heart of the film.

The mood and pacing of Luxor is contemplative at best and although it will not be for everyone, the hypnotic meandering nature of the film rewards with a story that is driven by beautifully realised characters. It tells a very natural and relatable story with great compassion, sensitivity for its characters and warmth in both a narrative and cinematic sense.

Luxor will now be released through virtual screenings nationwide from this Friday, 6th November, including on Curzon Home Cinema and lots of other local cinemas listed on modernfilms.com.

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