by Alex Jackson There are two incredible images in Denis Villeneuve's Incendies. The first of these is during a preamble to the main story. A small Arabic boy is having his head shaved. We push in on his face as he stares contemptuously at us. Everything childlike has been gutted out of him and he's been filled back up with rage. I can't recall the last time I saw the aftermath of child abuse concentrated so concisely and with so much potency. This shot feels vaguely invasive, as though we're seeing a part of him we weren't meant to see. The second incredible image is of childbirth. The mother is Palestinian and her lover, the father of her baby, was just recently murdered by her brothers as part of an honour killing. Her grandmother is keeping her protected until she has the child. This baby looks like an actual newborn: wrinkled, veiny, bloody, covered with waxy vernix. The infant embodies all those romantic hopes for a better future, but there's a bodily horror to it, too. By having this child and bringing it to term, the mother has essentially assured her own demise, or at least the complete rejection of the only family she knows. I don't see ambiguity like that very often. It's thrilling. While I'm not convinced that Incendies would work without these two images, with them Villeneuve proves ready and willing to reward our emotional investment. I'm a little disappointed that Incendies was Canada's official submission for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award this year and is now one of the five final nominees, as this indicates that backlash--particularly, I fear, towards the picture's unabashedly sentimental climax--is just around the corner. This is, quite simply, one of the best films of this year or last.