Repeated: Nadine Labaki‘s Capernaum (Sony Pictures Classics, 12.14) is about a 12 year-old Lebanese kid (and a small-framed one at that, making him look eight or nine) going through hard-knocks destitution on the streets of Beirut.
Does it get you emotionally to watch a raw verite depiction of a parent-less, penniless kid struggle to survive while trying to take care of an infant boy in diapers? Of course it does, but I didn’t see Capernaum as manipulative because I didn’t sense any lying or exaggerating on the part of Labaki, the kid (Zain Al-Rafeea), the infant or any of the supporting characters.
What other way could a director possibly depict extreme poverty except in a plain, matter-of-fact way?
Capernaum isn’t really about a child who files a lawsuit against his parents for giving him birth, as the point is never vigorously or extensively argued in a courtroom setting. It is, however, a deeply affecting hard-knocks, street-urchin survival tale in the vein of Pixote or Slumdog Millionaire.