Wassim Geagea’s short film Omé (My Mother) is at once a poignant coming-of-age tale as well as an interrogation of religious traditions and institutions. When 9-year-old Elias (Jack Aboud El Jannah) loses his mother to an untimely death, he attempts to resurrect her by bargaining with God. Stricken by grief but also driven by faith, Elias steals the statue of the Virgin Mary from his local church, telling God that he will give back His mother if God gives back his mother in a sort of miraculous exchange: “When you restore my mother, I’ll restore yours.” If Jesus can come back from the dead, so can his mother. But when more accidents and tragedies begin to befall Elias’ home and village, people perceive these as God’s punishment for the missing Virgin, and thus begin to look for a scapegoat. This brings Elias even more troubles as he wrestles with what he must do, and ultimately what he will believe about the divine.
The second short film from the Lebanese filmmaker, Omé is effective with its short running time, generating a sense of pathos for Elias’ plight by showing us this corner of the world in rural Lebanon. The film’s strengths are in the child performances and cinematography, which elevate the simple story to more than merely a modern-day fable. Jack Aboud El Jannah is wonderful in the main role, and communicates a wide range of emotions for such a young age. Yet the film’s apparent critique of religion lacks nuance and subtlety, presenting a cursory and somewhat caricatured image of Christianity and faith. It’s not surprising that the local priest and church are ineffective at providing emotional support for Elias and his widower father, as religion is portrayed as being largely a big scam, a commercialized opiate for the masses. Whether this has been Geagea’s real-life experience with Christianity or is simply a fictionalized vision of religion, the result ends up simplistic and archetypical, leaving little in the way of surprise by the film’s conclusion. But beyond this less-than-effective critique of religion, Omé is a quietly affecting meditation on loss, how our beliefs inform and affect our grieving process and what we are willing to do to find a sense of hope. If you are able to find the film streaming online, it is well worth a quarter of an hour to enter into Elias’ world.
IMDB Listing: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11046472/