Chain smoking, getting high, and line cutting their way through life, criminal defence lawyer Laila and DJ Salma are joined in their Yemenite Quarter apartment by recently engaged computer science student Nour. This film follows their lives and loves, at its centre the — at times, disturbing — theme of patriarchy, which pervades each scene, as close and acrid as the cigarette smoke that suffocates them all. The camerawork is so close you could inhale it, and through its haze the viewer catches glimpses of an almost constant battle between personal freedom and familial and societal ideals.
If you are familiar with anywhere east of Turkey, you will recognise the larger-than-life world of family gatherings, copious food, marriage introductions, and mouthy Aunties —all of which appeared, in stereotype to a greater or lesser extent. Religion took on an interesting and diverse twist here and, while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not central to the movie, needle-sharp reminders of the position of Arabs in Israel darted through the script: “who knows, one day peace might erupt.”
Each of the three women in the film has her own cross to bear, and has to find her own solution to the constraints imposed on her by society, whether it be through rebellion, revenge, or resignation. There was only one (moderately) sympathetic male character and both the characters and the plot seemed subservient to the moral message. However, what the film lacked in subtlety, it more than made up for in capturing the zeitgeist of a modern society riddled with — and at times crippled by — double standards. Additionally, there were some unexpected gems of restrained poetry in the dialogue and a soundtrack so good I’m Googling it right now. With this terrific debut, director Maysaloun Hamoud has created something entertaining, vibrant, heartbreaking, and most worthy of our attention.