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Wahed Saheeh: Drama About the Perfect Wife and Unrequited Love
Ridiculously translated into ‘A Whole One’, Wahed Saheeh isn’t a romance as much as it is a film about unrequited love.Abdullah (Salama) is the ultimate playboy. He’s also an arrogant douchebag but he’s charming, rich and successful, so girls fling themselves at him anyway. Wahed Saheeh recounts his relationship with four women; Nadine (Basma), Amira (Alloush), Mariam (Raees) and Farida (Yousef). Each one represents a certain aspect of Abdullah’s version of the ideal woman. Nadine is his best friend and knows him better than anyone, Amira’s the only woman he’s been able to emotionally connect with, Mariam is a stereotypical good girl, and he and Farida have great sex. Things get even more complicated as he comes under pressure from his mother to pick a wife and settle down.
Salama is pretty convincing as a charming womaniser with a huge ego; yet his breakdown near the end of the film just isn’t as believable. One scene in particular comes to mind where Abdullah is overcome due to Amira’s disappearance and is ranting and raving to a very sympathetic Nadine. We’re told that Abdullah’s absolutely distraught yet it’s Nadine that looks like she’s just lost the love of her life.
Basma as Nadine is the film’s undisputed highlight. She’s Abdullah’s best friend who happens to be going through a divorce for reasons she hasn’t made him privy to. She does her best to set Abdullah up with her cousin Mariam, whom he takes a fancy to due to her pure, sweet, feminine demeanour. Through Mariam and Amira’s arcs, the film succeeds in critiquing Egyptian society on two fronts.
Firstly, Abdullah and Mariam signify the double standard in our society, where the woman has to be as pure as the driven snow while the man can sleep around. It’s quite clear that Abdullah never loved Mariam or viewed her as his equal; he’s just been conditioned into believing that he’s entitled to a wife like her.
Secondly, Amira’s arc deals with the problems facing interfaith relationships. As a devout Christian, she deals with this problem on two fronts, once in the capacity of Abdullah’s girlfriend and another as the daughter of a man who converted to Islam to marry a Muslim woman. She wants to be with Abdullah but he doesn’t want to go against her religion or subject her kids to the kind of pain and confusion that her dad put her through.
The weakest link character-wise is Youssef’s Farida. She’s a married society wife/doctor who has commissioned Abdullah to work on a project with her. They begin an affair and suddenly this very assertive woman turns into a grovelling idiot when Abdullah throws one of his tantrums. In an unhappy marriage with a gay man that nonetheless afforded her riches, her arc tries, rather shallowly, to explore the concept of marriage as a business contract and not as a romantic union.
The film’s soft focus quality adds to the film’s overdramatic nature, yet the liberal use of US Top 40 songs is really jarring. The way the many storylines are juggled is pretty impressive. The characters are all connected by Abdullah but we also get to know about their lives away from him. And while the extensive use of voiceover manages to cram in a lot more about the characters than would normally be feasible, they still come across as rather shallow and their storylines occasionally become stereotypically melodramatic.
Like 2008 Oscar-winning documentary, Man on Wire, The Walk tells of French tightrope performer Philippe Petit's exhilarating high-wire performance between the Twin Towers; a feat that took place over forty years ago. Channeling the kind of approach that made Back to the Future and Forrest Gump so successful, Robert Zemeckis frames his story in a fictionalised comedy-caper format and, although the film isn’t without its flaws, the director has put together a fun and occasionally exhilarating watch.
The story begins six years before the actual event with Philippe Petit (Levitt) performing on the streets of Paris. With no real prospects in sight, he soon stumbles across a newspaper article about the planned construction of the Twin Towers in New York and is instantly ignited with the desire to walk between the towers on nothing but a tight rope.
Several years later, Philippe meets – and falls in love with – Annie (Le Bon); a street musician who is eventually drawn into helping him plan and prepare for the stunt alongside friend and anarchist photographer, Jean-Louis (Sibony). After helping him pull off a high-wire feat between the two towers of Notre Dame, they soon decide that he is ready for the big one and make their way to New York City to see it through.
Told through a slightly intrusive voiceover narration – a feature which the film really could have done without in some parts – The Walk is fast-paced, engaging and manages to capture the artist's drive and passion for performing death-defying stunts.
However, the script feels a little heavy-handed, tends to over-explain everything and it doesn't really begin to take full form until the third and final act where you will invariably be on the edge of your seat. That sense is partly owed to the visuals, with Zemeckis and co. bringing the iconic 1970s New York skyline to life in the grandest of ways and the dizzying first-person shots.
Performance wise, Levitt ticks all the boxes, though his faux French accent gets a little grating thanks to the voiceover overdrive. Meanwhile, the supporting cast – including Ben Kingsley who plays Philippe's trainer, Papa Rudy– are all relatively well-fitted into Philippe's story, though they are readily left by the wayside for the protagonist's goal.
Nevertheless, Zemeckis – who also penned the script – manages to do something that few films with such a niche plot achieve; making the audience care. Daring and visually impressive, it's a high-flying and, at times, thrilling ride.
Despite its potentially juicy political premise and Nic Cage’s relatively solid performance – more on that later - Austin Stark’s The Runner ends up being a poor-man’s version of politically-charged TV shows such as House of Cards and Scandal.
The Runner follows the story of idealistic Louisiana congressman, Colin Price (Cage) who, in the wake of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, is working hard on rebuilding his community, both financially and morally. After giving a passionate speech about the scandal, Colin soon finds himself making headlines and with the encouragement from consultants, Frank (Pierce) and Kate (Paulson), the pathway to a seat at the senate soon opens.
However, his celebrity status and reputation in the community is blemished by the discovery of an affair with the wife of a local fisherman – indiscreetly caught on a CCTV video footage – ultimately, painting the congressman in the worst of lights as he tries to put together the pieces of his shattered life.
The film marks the directorial debut of New York-born indie filmmaker Austin Stark – his producing portfolio includes films such as Happythankyoumoreplease and Detachment – and as far as first-time features go, The Runner is not the worst of its kind.
Playing out like a docu-drama, the plot is intriguing enough and there are plenty of moments of both despair and hope throughout. However, the story’s lack of energy is The Runner’s major flaw, as no matter how interesting its premise may be, there just isn’t enough oomph to get it to the finish line.
Despite its poor pacing and several loose subplots, it’s Cage’s relatively believable performance of a down-in-the-gutter politico looking for redemption that keeps The Runner from falling apart. It’s not an Oscar-worthy performance by any stretch of the imagination, but one can’t help give credit where it’s due with a man that has often found himself a figure of ridicule.