And here’s the thing: the worst happens. This is a horrible war. After a bombing, the staff has to deal with the aftermath. Sometimes there are people with minor injuries. But sometimes people die, and the family wails. And the worst is when it happens to kids. They get the victims of a chemical warfare attack, who are struggling to breathe. Children are not spared from these atrocities.
The main focus of The Cave is Amani, a 29-year-old woman who is running the makeshift hospital. From one of the earliest scenes, she’s being questioned by a male patient who wants to speak to a man because he thinks a woman’s place is in the home. We see other women facing the same discrimination, yet going above and beyond, making incredible sacrifices to help others.
“Any normal person would run from their situation. But they don’t.”
The Cave is the hardest movie I’ve ever watched. I thought of leaving the theater because I couldn’t take it. You just don’t want to see it, but you need to. It is important. As a decent human, you can’t look the other way. You will cry, but that’s nothing compared to what they’re facing.
Why did I stay? The filmmakers are adept at first introducing you to the main subjects and only then ratcheting up the stakes. Some may see this as manipulation, but I see it as necessary. Any normal person would run from their situation. But they don’t. Why? The film forces you to confront that with the characters and within yourself.
Of course, the filmmakers put themselves in peril in making the movie at all. If they can do that, the least you can do is see it. It will stick with you long after you leave the theater. It is as moving as it is possible for a film to be.
The Cave premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.