The Perfect Candidate

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16th March 2020

A Fascinating Movie That Makes You Think

That looking for a job can be extremely difficult is something that we’ve all experienced before. Whether it’s because of the lack of skills, the fierce competition or just not being the right fit, there were many reasons why we were rejected from jobs. However, were you already rejected because of your gender?

Well, let’s hope not. Most of us are lucky enough that both men and women get the same chance of getting the opportunity to apply, get a job and even grow.

Sadly, that’s something Dr. Maryam doesn’t get at all. She lives in Saudi Arabia and is constantly being reminded of the inequality between men and women in her country. Her beautiful and heartbreaking story is about to grace our screen thanks to director Haifaa Al-Mansour (“Nappily Ever After”, “Mary Shelley”) and her “The Perfect Candidate”.

Dr. Maryam (Mila Al Zahrani) is working at her local emergency hospital and while she’s extremely good at her work, she can’t perform her job as a doctor and possibly lifesaver to the fullest. This isn’t because she can’t do her work properly but because she’s a woman.

She’s well respected amongst her female colleagues but the men she comes in contact with, whether they’re patients or colleagues, aren’t keen on supporting her at all. From them, she can’t get the respect and praise she deserves.

During her professional life, she’s facing inequality every second but luckily for her, that doesn’t apply to her private life. She’s living together with her sisters, Sara (Nora Al Awadh) and Selma (Dae Al Hilali), and father Abdulaziz (Khalid Abdulraheem) who used to be a wedding musician.

One day Maryam gets the chance of a lifetime when there’s an important medical conference happening. This wouldn’t only be an opportunity to learn more about the medical world but it would also be the perfect occasion to apply for a much better job.

However, that chance is being taken away from her due to an invalid passport. We all know the real reason why she wasn’t allowed to board the plane and so does she.

For her, this is a rejection too many and because of that, she (accidentally) applies to become the head of the local council. Not only because it would be the opportunity to finally get the fund to pave the road in front of the emergency centre but also to fight for equality between men and women.

Will she be able to change the village forever or will the male dominance and the very traditional mind-set of the community be too hard to overcome? Also, which impact will this have on her family?

That the film was already screened at film festivals such as the Toronto International Film Festival and London Film Festival comes to us as no surprise at all. “The Perfect Candidate” has many elements to offer to a worldwide audience.

First of all, it’s the important main topic this movie is about. As a woman, Maryam has to battle against the many prejudices of men every day and this has a massive impact on both her personal and professional life.

While we’re living in the 21st century, there are still a lot of women who have to go through the same, especially those who live in a Saudi country.

“The Perfect Candidate” is also about the incredibly hard struggle between fighting for what you believe in but maybe losing your family in the process or giving up your dream just to fit in society. Of course, there are also very human elements such as love, friendship, family and dreaming big.

Another reason why “The Perfect Candidate” is a movie you should watch is the stunning acting. All three main actresses make their film debut with this movie. There’s Al Zahrani who puts on a strong, fierce, emotional and extremely expressive performance as the Dr. with an important dream. She’s a wonderful and captivating lead throughout the entire movie.

Alongside her, we see Al Awadh and Al Hilali as her sisters. Al Awadh is the more traditional sister of the household who, despite having different views on life, still supports her courageous sister. Al Hilali, on the other hand, portrays the more supportive, open-minded and modern sister.

Both actresses play their character in a beautiful, charming and unique way. In this film, we also see the funny, musically and honest performance of Abdulraheem as the father. A father who loves his daughters no matter how far away they’re and what they do.

The real-life feeling and human emotions are coming through even more because of the way this film was made. There are no special effects or too complicated scenes which made it feel like you’re watching a documentary based on true events instead of a film.

The editing itself is also kept plain and simple which heightened that feeling again. The score and music in this movie add to that feeling as well. The background noise you here aren’t songs or fabricated sounds. No, it’s about the ‘natural sound’ of cars passing by, bikes, ambulances, etc. When there’s music involved in this film, it’s either when Abdulaziz and his band play their music.

Ok, this latest Al-Mansour film might not be everyone’s taste but don’t let that stop you to at least give this movie a shot as it’s a film that will make you think. “The Perfect Candidate” is an emotional, gorgeously made and captivating film that includes many real-life and important issues.

“The Perfect Candidate” is available on Curzon Home Cinema, the BFI Player and Modern Films from 27 March.

A determined young Saudi doctor's surprise run for office in the local city elections sweeps up her family and community as they struggle to accept their town's first female candidate.

27th March 2020

Haifaa Al-Mansour

Haifaa Al-Mansour, Brad Niemann

Running Time:
1h 41min

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