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Beyond Belief

Earnest, moving, not that interesting

This slack-paced doc, which follows Patti Quigley and Susan Retik, two soccer moms who lost their husbands on 9/11, as they raise money for widows in Kabul, is earnest and moving, but it meanders its way through a story of dubious dramatic interest. The years pass, the kids sprout up, and the moms learn to cope. Eventually, after wrenching vacillations, they travel to Afghanistan themselves, where they are duly moved and humbled by the people they meet. Susan and Patti seem like perfectly nice women, but they're not particularly compelling characters, and director Beth Murphy doesn't probe hard enough. In the end, a widow is not a widow is not a widow: Susan and Patti have gained power from their grief, while their Afghani counterparts have lost everything. They have no skills, no income, and no social standing; in order to marry again, they would have to abandon their children. Oh, and they have perpetual headaches from squinting through their burqas. What started as an exercise in essentialism is quickly revealed to be just the opposite, and this film would have been more interesting had Murphy delved into the complexity of the Afghan women's lives rather than focusing on the Americans' generosity.

 
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