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Beauty and the Dogs
Mariam (Mariam Al Ferjani), a young woman, attends a party and gets raped by police officers in a police car upon leaving the party. She, along with a stranger, Youssef (Ghanem Zrelli) she meets after the rape, goes to a clinic to report the rape and to undergo a rape kit exam. However, she's told that they can't help her without proper ID which she doesn't have because she left her purse inside the police car. They insist that she should go to the police station, so she goes there with Youssef, but her goal of reporting the rape becomes much easier said than done when the police treat her with hostility in hopes of covering up the crimes of their colleagues.
Beauty and the Dogs is a taut, engrossing and captivating psychological thriller with an emotionally resonating performance by Mariam Al Ferjani. Mariam comes across as a fragile character who's also steadfast, persistent and courageous in many ways. There's much more to her than meets the eye which makes her all the more interesting. Thanks to Al Ferjani's moving performance, you can truly feel Mariam'ssuffering. She refuses to sign a confession that would exonerate her rapists and won't back down until justice is properly served. It's like a David vs. Goliath tale because of the police corruption that she's up against, but she's unafraid to use her slingshot, so-to-speak, when she needs to defend herself. She's a heroine who's worth rooting for and caring about as a human being.
Writer/director Kaouther Ben Hania wisely chooses to trust the audience's imagination by actually showing the rape of Mariam. Instead, she merely shows the aftermath and lets the audience connect the dots. Whether or not Mariam has the rape recorded on video on her cellphone won't be spoiled here. Hania prefers emotional grit over physical grit. Yes, Mariam does get physically abused as does Youssef, but the filmmaker doesn't rely on the violence as a means of entertainment or does she go for shock value---this isn't Irreversible after all. Beauty and the Dogs is ultimately a suspenseful and haunting film that's emotionally devestating. There's never a dull or lethargic moment to be found nor is there anything that adds unnecessary padding. In other words, Hania keeps the film lean, focused and thoroughly engaging. It might be best to pair it with something much lighter like a Charlie Chaplin film to lift your spirits up.
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