Are You Glad I’m Here is a Lebanese production from director Noor Gharzeddine. A young American woman teaching English in Beruit finds herself in the middle of a dangerous family drama.
Kirsten (Tess Harrison) lives in an apartment across the hall from a family. The father, Pierre (Najeeb Zeitouni), is a pharmacist. He’s also a wife beater and a cheater. The mother Nadine (Marwa Khalil) claims she still loves him. They have a 9 year old son, Rami (Charbel Makhlouf). Nadine is pregnant.
Kirsten and Nadine become friends. They spend a lot of time together. Kirsten watches Rami sometimes. He helps her with Arabic and she helps him with English.
Kirsten slowly realizes the kind of fights and abuse going on between Pierre and Nadine. The walls are thin. Her American solutions and advice are of little use to Nadine. Kirsten doesn’t understand the complexity of what Nadine is dealing with.
Kristen was in the apartment with Nadine one night when Pierre came home drunk.
Something horrific happened that night. Nadine, with support from Kirsten, struggled to figure out what to do about it. They found themselves in a dangerous situation with few options. The two women dealt with the situation and bonded, probably forever. Despite them having this experience together, their lives would soon diverge.
My feeling about Are You Glad I’m Here was that this was a dire and desperate time in Nadine’s life. But to the American visitor, Kirsten, it was just a tale she would tell later tell her friends over drinks – or maybe write a book about.
Like Kristen, we were the outsiders. We don’t really know how Nadine’s story will play out in the long term.
I thought the Lebanese actors were all natural and believable. Tess Harrison seemed a bit awkward in her delivery. Perhaps she was acting out a character she considered awkward, but that wasn’t the impression I got. Marwa Khalil as Nadine was quite wonderful.
In director Noor Gharzeddine’s bio she describes herself as a Lebanese-American filmmaker who enjoys unlikely relationships and strange environments. She picked a perfect tale by writer Samuel Cyrenius Anderson to tell such a story.
The film is streaming on Prime Video. Take a look at the trailer.