Parents' Guide to


By Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Powerful, gritty Lebanese drama shows kids in danger.

Movie R 2018 121 minutes
Capernaum Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 1 parent review

age 14+

Film festival equalivent of oscar bait

Capernaum is solid with great performances and an interesting premise however the plot falls apart midway way through the 2nd act. 14 and up

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1):
Kids say (1):

It's one savage gut punch after another as Zain -- a resourceful, brave boy who has somehow developed real empathy in a world that doesn't value children -- suffers many horrific blows. Capernaum ("Chaos") can be very hard to watch, since it shows young children in dangerous, abusive situations. Zain's selfless love for his sister and for Yonas is palpable; it's hard to imagine not being touched by his efforts to nurture and protect them. Lebanon's official entry for the 91st Academy Awards joins other affecting 2018 films such as Lean on Pete and American Street Kid in detailing the lives and perils of kids who are trying to get by on their own in extreme poverty. Newcomer Al Rafeea is superb as Zain; Yordanos Shiferaw is sympathetic as an undocumented immigrant who befriends him.

Co-writer (and well-known Lebanese actress) Nadine Labaki's direction is extremely effective. She avoids heavy-handed sentimentality with a bare-knuckles style that allows Al Rafeea's outstanding performance to shine. It also lets viewers feel close to the character and his struggles. The script, when dealing with those struggles, is also quite effective, with horrific turns and shots of humor. But that same script has two major narrative flaws that seriously temper the overall experience of the film: a framing sequence involving Zain bringing a court case against his parents for allowing him to be born and inexplicable storytelling gaps at the end of the film that will leave many viewers frustrated. The former, especially, feels so wrong as to verge on "cute" for a film that, at its most affecting, feels anything but. Capernaum is no picnic, but its performances and direction certainly make it memorable.

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