El Fagoumi is based on the true story of legendary Egyptian poet, Ahmed Fouad Negm (El Sawy) and how he became a literary icon and a voice for resistance over the decades. It takes place in the politically turbulent 1950s. Negm meets and befriends another iconic figure, the lyricist and oud player Sheikh Imam Eissa (Abdallah). The two figures develop a profound friendship that lasts several decades and endures the harsh conditions of life in Egypt, especially during the bread riots of the 1970s and the political turmoil during President Sadat’s era.

Although the film is based on a true story, the director took the liberty of changing the main characters’ names to Nesr and Hamam respectively; perhaps to avoid accusations of distorting real events and to avoid lawsuits.

El Sawy does a solid job at interpreting Ahmed Fouad Negm's character on screen, whether reciting his poetry or telling his jokes. Yes, the language is a bit vulgar sometimes, but it's the real deal so it can't be criticized. The rest of the actors don’t really fit their characters’ profile and only manage to give below-average performances, except for Salah Abdallah, who puts on a decent performance as Hamam.

Given that this is big production, and that El Fagoumi is dedicated to the martyrs of January 25th, it’s a shame that the actors failed to give their best performances, which could largely be the fault of director El Shamaa. Half-way through, it becomes increasingly apparent that El Fagoumi is a one-man show, where El Sawy isn't just the main attraction, but the only one in fact.

The film's cinematography isn't that great, but the film is edited cleverly. In between takes, director El Shamaa shows real footage of the early days in Cairo for an added dose of nostalgia.

The script is not that innovative, but it's loaded with historical and political references. The plot fails to delve into Negm’s persona or show any personal development or growth. If anything, audiences get a rather superficial interpretation of Negm’s life that fails to highlight the power and relevance of his poetry; instead the words lose their charm as his poetry is recited excessively in several scenes to little effect. Also, the frequent political discussions may alienate or even bore some audience members seeking entertainment.

Overall, El Fagoumi is definitely a crowd-pleasing film but only because of El Sawy’s presence. But you have to be familiar with Ahmed Fouad Negm's works or at least his character, in order to enjoy it or relate to it.