Sleepless Movie Review: When Monaliza Smiled

As a Jordanian you are strongly discouraged from smiling, or perhaps that’s what many people think or say. You rarely see anyone smile, if people smile at you for no reason they are either up to something or pure lunatics. A horrible stereotype I must say, but it does come strongly as a ambiance you feel when you are out and about in the country.

Last night, we got invited by Prime Cinema’s through their agency to attend the premier of “WHEN MONALIZA SMILED” a Jordanian production by Director Fadi Haddad. This Jordanian production is a romantic comedy that will sweep you off your feet and keep you surprised as the light humor throughout the movie keeps a smile on your face, while one continues to think, are we really that grumpy?

The film speaks about a variety of social issues that one may call controversial, and how life in Amman is judged by your surroundings, neighborhoods, lifestyle etc… Leader actress Tahani Salim (which truly deserves multiple awards for her outstanding performance) is Monaliza, a government office job lady who throughout the film seems to be one who shall never marry, and don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t seem to mind it either. As a child, an adolescent, and an adult, Monaliza doesn’t smile, as she had defended herself in one of the scenes in the movie, ‘El de7ek min doun sabab, elet Adab’, which pretty much means smiling/laughing for no apparent reason is rude and disgraceful.

But the frown was about to change into a smile, a hearty smile, full of passion which turns into soft roars of laughter when she meets Hamdi, a handsome Egyptian co-worker played by Shady Khalaf.

In an interview with JO Magazine, director Fadi Haddad mentioned that the film was inspired by a friend’s experience in dealing with slow government bureaucracy, but has turned out to be something more, into a story of people, how they view themselves, each other and the everyday prejudices that we live in modern day Amman.

As love grows between Monaliza and Hamdi, you can’t help but smile during the movie, it really shows the simplicity of falling in love, and how different we are as people when we do. But as the case in many romances, comes an obstacle, and seeing as Hamdi is an Egyptian, comes the risk of losing his work permit, which both his friends and Monaliza’s co-workers do nothing about in regards to saving their relationship.

As the plot thickens you notice the appearances of Nayfeh, Monaliza’s manager in the department performed by Nadera Omran, another superb performance in the film. An aggressive character, you can’t help but want to reach onto the screen to strangle this typical character, until she breaks down towards the end of the film and one does realize that you shouldn’t really judge people especially not knowing what they’re going through or from.

I loved this Jordanian production, the scenes, the ambiance, the old views of Amman allies and neighbourhoods and the story. Nevertheless, I did feel that the ending did not wrap up well, I am not a director or anything and probably don’t see much art to it, but it felt a bit void, that there should’ve been something more, that the ending shouldn’t have been rushed.

But nevertheless, I am proud of this Jordanian production, and can’t wait to ee more. When Monaliza Smiled, the whole audience smiled with her, and I am sure you will too.

Now showing at Prime Cinemas…

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