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Reviews for December 14th, 2018

The Wedding

Directed by Sam Abbas

      Rami (Sam Abbas), a Muslim, leads a secret gay lifestyle unbeknowst to his fiancee, Sara (Nikohl Boosheri), whom he resides with in New York City. Sara tries to plan with him the details of the wedding and honeymoon, but Rami seems disinterested. He also feels pressured by his mother, Abir (voice of Hend Ayoub), who calls and texts him in hopes of helping him with his wedding plans. Meanwhile, he has sexually-charged affairs with two men, Lee (Harry Aspinwall) and Tom (James Penfold).

      The Wedding is an understated and nuanced drama that pays homage to Blue Valentine and the films of Jean-Luc Godard from the French New Wave. Francois Truffaut once observed that a great film has a perfect blend of Truth and Spectacle. This film has 100% Truth, and it's Spectacle can be found within its Truth if you look beneath the surface of its thin plot. The screenplay by writer/director Sam Abbas avoids flashbacks, melodrama, cheesiness, edge-of-your-seat suspense and big twists and cheesiness instead opting for a stark "slice-of-life." You never learn how Rami and Sara met nor how long they've been together or what their childhood was like. By keeping the film lean with no exposition, Abbas puts a lot of faith in the audience's imagination and intelligence. When Rami masturbates, at first you don't quite know what he's doing because it's shot from a distance outside of his room and he's blocked by part of a wall, but you soon realize that he's probably masturbating to porn---although you never learn what kind of porn. Sara texts a friend of hers, Marco (John Hein), who may or may not be more than just a friend. This is clearly the kind of film that leaves some things open to interpretation.

      The cinematography, set design and scene compositions enrich the film with meaning much like in Godard's French New Wave films with static and long shots. However, the long shots become a double-edged sword because you're kept at a distance from the actors' faces, so it's hard to tell what they're thinking or to feel their warmth or charisma. One such beautifully-shot scene that feels cold is when Rami stares into the distance at a Hudson River pier, but you only see him from behind far away. While it's understandable that Rami is emotionally distant from Sara, that doesn't mean that he has to be emotionally distant from the audience. To fair, at least Abbas doesn't resort to cheap devices like voice-over narration to get inside the characters' heads. Although The Wedding is refreshingly naturalistic and unHollywood, it ultimately leaves you cold and underwhelmed.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by ArabQ Films.
Opens at Cinema Village.
Questions? Comments? Please click here.

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