The first female-directed Saudi Arabian film would be culturally significant even if it weren't very good; and though writer-director Haifaa Al-Mansour doesn't break new ground aesthetically (the film's style is one of unforced, albeit unremarkable, naturalism), she relates the experience of a Saudi Arabian girl's coming of age clearly and unsentimentally, which alone makes this a must-see. The title character is a headstrong preteen whose modest expressions of individuality (listening to pop music, wanting to ride a bicycle) constantly get her into trouble at school. Meanwhile at home, her mother struggles with feelings of abandonment as her husband searches for a second wife. The portrait of institutionalized misogyny is predictably devastating, especially since Al-Mansour adopts an understated perspective that allows the society to incriminate itself. In Arabic with subtitles.
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