The Season of Men | Chicago Reader

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Fans of Tunisian writer-director Moufida Tlati's compelling debut, The Silences of the Palace, will find her second feature, The Season of Men, something of a disappointment. The first brilliantly merged the personal and the political as it told the story of a rebellious servant girl finding her voice at the dawn of Tunisia's independence. The second also uses the theme of women combating tradition, but its plot and characters quickly become tedious and bogged down in cliche. The story unfolds primarily on the island of Djerba, most of whose men leave their families to seek their fortune in Tunis, returning home for one month a year to be treated like kings. Their wives prepare for their return as if for another honeymoon, and women without husbands are thoroughly marginalized. In this oppressive culture, the independent-minded Aicha marries her cousin Said. She wants to accompany him to the city, but he refuses to take her, leaving her under the thumb of his overbearing mother. The stress of this environment and their marriage has consequences for their children, particularly their daughters. In The Silences of the Palace flashbacks and music provided narrative momentum and emotional resonance. Here the flashback structure feels unmotivated and negates any suspense the story might have had, and the music isn't well integrated into the plot. Compared to its more nuanced and complex predecessor, The Season of Men seems shrill and soap operatic. 122 min.

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