Home invasion movies tend to tread a familiar path. Usually when watching we tend to know, or think we know, what will happen yet even the most poorly made home invasion movie will have moments that chill us or scare us. That’s because it plays upon a primal and universal fear that is apparent from the genre title – a home, a place we love and live in, invaded by someone who does not belong. They enter by force and violently disrupt the peaceful equilibrium that had gone before it.  Insyriated utilities this fear to great effect, something which is belied by a rather ill-suited punny title.

Insyriated is an intimate – claustrophobically so – drama set in a blockaded apartment in Damascus. At its centre, in more ways than one, is middle class matriarch Oum Yazan (Abbass). What would be a usually spacious apartment is filled with her, her three children, her father-in-law, her nephew, the couple who used to live upstairs (before their own apartment was destroyed) and their baby. Under siege she tries to bring a degree of normalcy amongst the chaos, even though the civil war is literally at their doorstep. She’s fiercely determined to protect her household yet outside forces seem equally determined to test them all to their very limits.

At the very heart of the film is a moral quandary, one that is inflicted very early on, and one that every viewer will find themselves reflecting upon. We are deposited in a world that is full of horrors, a nightmare for those of us more fortunate yet a reality for far too many. The truly skilled cinematography allows this aspect to truly succeed to its suffocating fullest. The camera roams the apartment, testing the literal limitations and thereupon probing the more metaphorical ones. It weaves, tracks and pans to a backing soundtrack of bombs & bullets. Throughout the film’s short running time (just over 80 minutes) the cinematography remains fluid, ever watchful, part of the action yet incapable of doing anything to help. The dialogue is not as successful, nowhere near as fluid, and doesn’t quite possess the level of weight to match the events that play out.

Insyriated allows audiences to see a personal story that goes beyond the newspaper headlines we may have become desensitized to, a brief portrait of a life and not just a statistic. The film opens one morning and ends the next. Everything yet nothing has happened. Everything yet nothing has changed. Everything is mundane and yet, truly terrible.

Dir: Philippe Van Leeuw

Scr: Philippe Van Leeuw

Featuring: Hiam Abbass, Diamand Bou Abboud, Juliette Navis, Mohsen Abbas, Moustapha Al Kar, Alissar Kaghadou, Ninar Halabi.

Prd: Serge Zeitoun, Guillaume Malandrin.

DOP: Tom Bergmann, Adam Uhl.

Music: Virginie Surdej

Country: Belgium

Year: 2017

Run time: 85 minutes

Insyriated opens in UK cinemas on September 8th.

By Charlotte Harrison

Secondary school teacher by day, writer of all things film by night. All round superhero 24/7.