Heaven Will Wait

Le ciel attendra

Marie-Castille Mention-SchaarFrance104 minutes201514AColourFrench

Director Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar parallels the stories of two teenage girls — one a would-be jihadist, the other a model student who strikes up an online relationship with a young Muslim man — in this penetrating study about how terrorism takes root in contemporary European youth.

The news these days is full of stories about terrorism. Among the key questions that surround those behind the attacks: Who are they? What motivates them? Where have they come from? A recent phenomenon that has surprised many people is the recruitment of young men and women from ordinary families in the West who take up arms with Daesh. This is the focus of Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar's disturbing account of two French teenagers.

The two girls at the centre of her film never meet, but their stories mirror one another in fascinating ways. Seventeen-year-old Sonia, is arrested by the authorities as she is about to leave France for Syria. Her tale becomes one of a disaster narrowly averted, as authorities and her family attempt to guide her rehabilitation. Mélanie, 16, is a model student and cellist whose internet searches for personal connection and meaning lead her into an online relationship with a young man who will have a devastating influence on her world view.

Le ciel attendra's separate but similar narratives deal with youths, one radicalized and the other not, who feel disconnected from their environments. Motivated by idealism, rebellion, and spiritual need, the girls make choices that are incomprehensible in the eyes of their families, but make perfect sense to them.

Mention-Schaar handles this tricky material with great sensitivity. Careful not to judge or moralize, she explores these very troubling, very modern issues in a manner that is both uncompromising and emotionally poignant.

PIERS HANDLING

Female ExperienceIslamFemale Director