Current Issue #488

Film Review:

Writer/director Maryam Touzani’s feature début is a modest but moving character study offering beautifully understated playing and powerful, if carefully restrained, emotions. Lacking pretensions or finger-waving, it’s a story about real compassion, and how friendships can emerge in the strangest and most unexpected of fashions.

Samia (Nisrine Erradi) is introduced in the chaotic streets of Casablanca asking for jobs at salons and shops, and it becomes clear that she’s homeless, desperate and (as a long shot eventually reveals) pregnant. Erradi’s big eyes are perfect for a movie such as this, and despite the fact that Samia’s in a dire situation, they still project warmth and humour.

Reduced to almost pleading with strangers for help, she knocks on a door and is greeted by baker Abla (Lubna Azabal) who, at first, sends her away, but then is guilted into taking her in by Warda (Douae Belkhaouda), her 8 year old daughter. Begrudgingly allowing her to sleep on the couch, Abla is uneasy with having this stranger around and obviously annoyed that she feels some sort of kinship with her, and Samia responds by trying to help out, cooking delicious rziza bread and answering the curious Warda’s many questions.

When Warda wants to touch Samia’s belly and listen to the baby kick, this prompts Abla’s rage, although these two women later reconcile and grow closer, even sharing a perhaps vaguely erotic baking scene that suggests that Touzani’s tale could have gone in another direction entirely.

Headed by three fine performances, with the distinguished Azabal working well with the less-known Erradi and charmingly naturalistic child actor Belkhaouda, this has an uncertain yet fitting final fadeout that seems to have upset certain viewers who evidently wanted something cheesier, weepier and more Hollywood.

And, well, too bad. That’s life.

Reviewer Rating

Adam (PG) is now screening at selected cinemas

DM Bradley

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