Having mentioned this film in my “Salaam Bombay!” review, I was encouraged to post this review that I gave on Amazon for this amazing film. Notice another mention of Ray’s “The Big City”!
First and foremost, praise definitely needs to be given to writer/director Haifaa al-Mansour for her bravery and determination to make this film, surprisingly the first to be filmed entirely in Saudi Arabia. It is indeed remarkable that a film of this quality can be made even when certain scenes prevented her from even being on set.
The performances in this film are great, especially the central performance of Waad Mohammed, a first time actress; She is a joy to watch from start to finish. The film also sports strong supporting performances from Reem Abdullah as Wadjda’s mother and Abdullrahman Algohani as her close friend Abdullah.
“Wadjda” is also successful in presenting a certain view of Saudi Arabia, its beliefs and customs; it is also a learning experience for those who are unfamiliar with how life in this country is. The film succeeds in presenting themes regarding the role of women in (Saudi) society, family, friendship and freedom. The Quaran recitals are also beautiful and well-filmed.
In terms of similar films, “Wadjda” bears an obvious resemblance to “Bicycle Thieves”, which al-Mansaur was apparently influenced by, and also to Satyajit Ray’s “The Big City”.
All in all, this is a lovely film, which is worthy of all possible praise. Despite all the troubles and difficulties with filming, it is an excellent watch.