Film Review: Powerful ‘You Resemble Me’

Dina Amer’s mesmerizing, elegiac film “You Resemble Me” begins with the lovely interactions of a couple of sisters, age seven and 9, tumbling through life and the outskirts of Paris in their gaily colored dresses that do, in fact, make them resemble each other. 

That the dresses were lifted from somewhere (and the removal of the electronic security tags left telltale holes) hints at the sharp edges of life in which they simply try to live as children. (Having to eat Cocoa Puffs with water is another). 

That their mother slaps them when she isn’t completely neglecting them sends them out on the streets to survive. They can’t even beg properly in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower because so few of the tourists there speak French. 

Eventually the system catches up with them and places them in foster homes — separately. The elder Hasna has a bad fit and runs away again; like her, we don’t ever see her sister Mariam again, leading to a the elder sister’s spiraling, having lost her last connection to love and belonging.

There are hard times and bad choices, but definite attempts to get things right, in fast food service or even trying to enlist into the army. But when her past isn’t catching up to her, she’s not allowed to be anything other than an outsider, though as an Arab Muslim she’s lived in France all her life.

This makes her somewhat susceptible when she runs into a cousin after many years who tries to entice her in his fundamentalist cause. Simply being wanted and the possibility of acceptance into something brings a  context or possible explanation for a choice that would otherwise be unthinkable. 

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