Under the brooding skies of their war-torn homeland, an all-women battalion of gun-wielding Yazidis — all former captives whose husbands and fathers were murdered — await an optimal opening to attack an ISIS headquarters in French director Eva Husson’s uneven drama “Girls of the Sun” — a name referencing an ancient symbol for the stateless ethno-religious group.
A fictionalized account of what occurred in the year following the 2014 Sinjar massacre in Iraqi Kurdistan, this disjointed, though consistently tense retelling dives full force into ostentatious pathos more often than it opts for narrative prudence. Subtlety is most absent in the prolonged flashbacks where the atrocities of sexual slavery aren’t graphically shown but overdramatized in by-the-numbers fashion.
As the film’s Western connection, Mathilde (Emmanuelle Bercot), a fictitious journalist partly inspired by late war correspondent Marie Colvin (eye-patch included), feels insufficiently embedded into a story already fragmented between the bellicose present and the horrors of the recent past.Her superficial interjections scramble to feel relevant.
As the unit’s pensive leader Bahar, Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani (Asghar Farhadi’s “About Elly,” Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson”) is remarkable in spite of the movie’s lack of structural and focal congruence. The multilingual thesp emanates the colossal fortitude of someone who’s shed her last teardrop, but salvaged enough hope to carry on and morph into a stone-faced combatant.
“They rape us, we kill them,” she says about the Islamic State fighters, who are taught that dying at the hands of a woman prevents them from reaching paradise. That’s an extreme example, but if only more of “Girls of the Sun” had that empowering sentiment as a primary aim, the filmmaker’s earnest intentions would manifest more organically.
‘Girls of the Sun’
In French, Kurdish, English, and Arabic with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Playing: Starts Friday, Laemmle Monica, Santa Monica; Laemmle Playhouse, Pasadena; Regal Edwards Westpark, Irvine