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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.
Good looks aren't everything – everyone knows that. The very same ideology can also be applied to the world of cinema; when a film has the body and the face, but very little personality to back up the pretty package, the payoff is – more often than not – rather disappointing.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the case with British crime-thriller, Welcome to the Punch.
Welcome to the Punch's opening sequence starts off with a heist in London's slick – and eerily empty – Canary Wharf business district. In hot pursuit of elusive thief, Jacob Sternwood (Strong) and his gas-mask wearing motorcycle-riding crew, the young and exceptionally driven detective, Max Lewinsky (McAvoy), will stop at nothing until his target is caught and put behind bars. Unfortunately, Sternwood manages to get away and as a parting gift, Max is left with a bullet in his knee.
Fast forward to three years later and Max is still reliving the events from that night and finding it hard to deal with the banality of everyday life. Max's newly-assigned partner, Sarah Hawks (Riseborough), offers some support, but the scar that he's left with – and a routine fluid drain to reduce consistent swelling – plays as a constant reminder of his failure.
Soon, Max is given another chance to capture his nemesis when Sternwood decides to emerge from his Icelandic hideout and return to London. Max, who has been waiting for this chance for three years, immediately jumps on the case, only to uncover a web of conspiracy and lies involving his own police department.
Welcome to the Punch marks Eran Creevy's second feature film after his successful directorial debut back in 2008 with Shifty; a British thriller involving a young cocaine dealer and his life on the shabby streets of London. This time, Creevy glams up those very same streets; a move that proves to be successful, as Welcome to the Punch is glorious to look at. The opening heist sequence is a piece of cinema any Hollywood big-shot would be proud of and the entire film rests against the twinkly lights of the prominent London skyline, with every scene saturated in a steely blue-grey tone.
However, this is where the praise stops. Scratching beneath its beautifully crafted surface, there's nothing else to hold the story together. The plot is incoherent, the dialogue is thoughtless and the tension – which is especially needed in a cat-and-mouse thriller such as this – is almost non-existent.
This is far from McAvoy’s best work and the role of a copper driven by vengeance just doesn’t fit the talented Scotsman. Meanwhile, Strong – whose heavy on-screen presence is hard to deny – picks up most of the slack.
Ridiculously slick and polished, Welcome to the Punch is almost picture-perfect. However, it fails to deliver what it initially promises; the punch.
Every now and then, a film comes along and leaves one completely spellbound and utterly speechless long after the end-credits roll. The Place Beyond the Pines is one such example.
Told in chapters, the story opens with the introduction of Luke Glanton (Gosling); a young motorcycle stunt driver working for a travelling carnival. During one of their stops in New York, he bumps into Ramona (Mendes); a girl with whom he’d had a one-night stand with during a previous rendezvous. He soon learns that he is the father of Ramona’s son, and despite the fact that she is now sharing a life with a boyfriend, Luke is determined to do his part and find a way to provide and care for them. He quits the carnival and befriends low-end mechanic, Robin (Mendelsohn), who convinces Luke that his stunt-riding skills might come in handy in pulling bank robberies.
The decision to venture into the world of crime ultimately puts Luke on the radar of Avery Cross (Cooper); a young police officer, and new father, whose story is focused on in the second chapter.
As the two men cross paths, their split-second decisions result in a life-altering moment that will not only have an impact on them, but on generations to come.
Director Derek Cianfrance – who had previously worked with Gosling in heavy 2010 indie drama, Blue Valentine – steps up to a much bigger canvas this time and still manages to delivering another incredibly stirring work of art. His carefully drawn world is compelling and unpredictable, and the unnerving and deeply moving score from composer, Mike Patton, only adds to the sense of dread that runs underneath the story's surface the whole way through. The consequences of one's decisions is the primary theme in this grand narrative and Cianfrance – with the penning support of Ben Coccio and Darius Marder – tells it in a way that feels natural and organic.
The Place Beyond the Pines has already been tipped for Oscar success, partly due to the fact that Cianfrance has managed to draw out some of the best performances of the year. Gosling – whose previous collaboration with the director proved to be some of his best work to date – is once again effortless, charismatic and utterly captivating. As a man who desperately wants to do the right thing, Gosling evokes an incredible amount of sympathy to his character while Cooper – who is slowly making his way to Hollywood elite status – delivers another magnetic performance. Even Mendes, in the role of a torn and distraught single mother, is confident, poised and manages to hold her own throughout.
Transfixing and poeti,c The Place Beyond the Pines is truly one of a kind. Viewers shouldn't be detered by its two-hour-plus running time; great stories like these take time to develop into epics and this is worth every minute.