Review: The Stopover (2016) — A program that’s supposed to help forget war

Ariane Labed stopover voir du pays

The Stopover / Voir du pays

Movie review

Directed and screenwritten by sisters Delphine and Muriel Coulin (17 Girls), The Stopover (Voir du pays) is a French drama about two military women, Aurore (Ariane Labed) and Marine (SoKo), who’re given “decompression leave” along with their entire unit after their duty in Afghanistan. In hopes of helping the soldiers “forget” of their horrifying experience at war or detect PTSD, they are to stay at a 5-star resort in Cyprus and go through an immersive VR program to reflect on their traumatic memories before they’re allowed to return home.

The Coulins won Best Screenplay Un Certain Regard at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival with The Stopover and I can clearly see why. The film never once actually show sequences of war but haunting images of it are painted through the dialogues by the characters backed by committed performances by the actors. The story doesn’t quite aim to be profound or meaningful. Instead, it simply conveys that a soldier’s traumatic experience at war is not something that can be easily forgotten or repaired — and this program could well make it worse. On top of that, the film focuses mainly on these mentally strong female soldiers, which is rare. Were there ever any any movies about returning female soldiers? Apart from bullets, bombs and blood, rape is another threat they face within the armed forces itself.

stopover voir du pays 5-star resort cyprus

The film’s visuals look raw and the tone is consistently grim and serious. It isn’t very enticing to watch at the beginning but as the story unfolds, we learn through the program that the soldiers do have unspoken regrets and traumas from a particular mission which killed their comrades. While the film’s pacing is slow, tension builds up to a gripping final act as the characters gradually explode from conflicts between each other and the tourists around. The ending may not seem like a satisfying one but it is what it is — a sad realistic closure and oddly, a somewhat positive answer to the issue.

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What I would’ve named the film: “To Forget, You Must First Be Reminded of It…?”

Malaysian censorship: I don’t think any scene was required to be cut. There is implied sex and a very brief rape shot but there’s no nudity.

Verdict: A raw, serious, eye-opening drama about returning French soldiers.

Rating: 4 / 5

* In respect to the subject and themes of the film, no meme was created for this review.

the stopover voir du pays movie poster malaysia gscCountry / Language: France / French

Genre: Drama
Running Time: 105 minutes
Director-writers: Delphine Coulin, Muriel Coulin
Cast: Soko, Ariane Labed, Ginger Romàn, Karim Leklou

Malaysia Release Date: 4 May 2017 (GSC International Screen only)
Rated: 18
Local Distributor: GSC Movies
Production: Archipel 35 with a number of other studios

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