What I love most about world cinema is the fact it takes us out of our element. Now add back the American/Western element, and it creates a whole new dynamic. Are You Glad I’m Here is a nice little hybrid of a foreign film about an American ex-pat befriending her Lebanese neighbor blending English and Arabic in this delightful film about friendship.
From director Noor Gharzeddine, Are You Glad I’m Here opens at a military checkpoint in Lebanon as a large truck driven by an extremely nervous Lebanese family along with a single American woman, are asked to search the contents of its trunk. As the silent group feigns innocence, we jump back eight weeks to the beginning of this tale.
Kirsten (Tess Elliot) is a U.S. teacher living in Beirut, Lebanon, teaching at a nearby middle school (or high school). On her way home, Kirsten picks up a few groceries, and while ascending the stairs to her apartment, a young boy runs into her spilling her bags. It is here that Kirsten is introduced to her neighbor Nadine (Marwa Khalil), and their friendship is born.
“Cultures soon clash when Nadine’s husband is revealed…to be abusive to Nadine and a slimy womanizer…”
Cultures soon clash when Nadine’s husband, Pierre (Najeeb Zeitouni), is revealed to Kirsten to be abusive to Nadine and a slimy womanizer to her. Kirsten’s western sensibility immediately wants to protect Nadine, but things are not that simple in Lebanon.