Film Review: Lipstikka

Written By: Leslie Byron Pitt



While feeling quite small from a technical point of view, it’s clear that Johnathan Sagall’s Lipstikka has a lot to say, and is loud enough to voice it’s issues. The film is an engrossing and revealing slow burn, which touches on relevant themes of classism, race and sexually with a sincerity that is often missing from films of its nature.

The film introduces us to Lara (Clara Khoury) a Palestinian woman who appears trapped in a loveless marriage to a successful, British husband (Daniel Caltagirone). Lara is suddenly reunited 2womenwith her high school friend, Inam (Nataly Attiya). The arrival Inam develops tension as the two women recall their history together and the pivotal moment of their puberty, which sets them on the paths they now lead.

Shot with clean, simple cinematography, Lipstikka isn’t a particularly striking film visually, however writer/director Sagall keeps the clogs of his drama turning by focusing on the solid performances of his two lead actresses and their younger counterparts; who appear in the film’s flashbacks. The film throws a lot of themes our way, from homosexuality to alcoholism. Yet despite almost bursting at the seams, Lipstikka keeps its footing due to the films raw and understated portrayals. Sagall’s dialogue may not hit the right tone for some, but the subtle, silent moments he gets from his actors speak volumes.

While the film is written by a man, the film never feels under the male gaze. Its representation of women feels honest, and never played for gratuitous titillation, something that could have easily happened under the wrong hands. The films perspective of young Palestinian women finding their way in the west is not only deceptively thoughtful at times but also exceptionally well timed. The film; made in 2011, is now released on video on demand which a large amount of themes that affect women from a universal point of view, and is handled with a good amount of care an attention.

Lipstikka certainly ups its game in the film’s final third as the revelations become clear yet the motivations haze over. Affections towards characters chop and change and the film’s finale is Palestiniandeceptively complex in its connotations. You feel for both women as they find themselves trapped in binds both psychological and emotional. Sagall is more than assured enough to know when to hold an actor’s gaze.

What makes Lipstikka so interesting for me is that while the film may not be particularly bold from a formalist point of view, the actor’s performances and as well as Sagall’s solid command of the narrative left me contemplating the film well after the final credits. Lipstikka may be small in form, but it clearly has much to discuss.

Lipstikka is released on digital download from 20th Oct 2014