BFI #LFF 2018: AMRA AND THE SECOND MARRIAGE Film Review

Alshaima’a Tayeb in AMRA AND THE SECOND MARRIAGE

Blending dark comedy with irony and wit, AMRA AND THE SECOND MARRIAGE exposes conflicted Saudi mores in this radical Saudi Arabian black comedy

Following the success of his debut film BARAKAH MEETS BARAKAH in 2016, Saudi filmmaker Mahmoud Sabbagh makes a welcome return to the big screen with his second feature, AMRA AND THE SECOND MARRIAGE.

The 91-minute comedy tells the story of a 44-year-old housewife Amra who toils hard on an ever-tightening budget to provide for her three daughters and ailing mother. When Amra discovers that her retired husband is planning to marry a second, much younger wife, after she failed to provide him with a son, she’s pushed towards a hefty compromise. In her attempts to comprehend this new reality, her life begins to unravel as she is forced into drastic measures.

Blending dark comedy with irony and wit, AMRA AND THE SECOND MARRIAGE boasts a distinct Coen Brothers feel thanks to its outrageous characters, snappy dialogue and unique genre mixing. In this radical Saudi Arabian black comedy, Sabbagh attacks cultural hypocrisy with irony and rapier wit as he takes a humorous stab at the contradictory and unequal setups of society.

Alshaima’a Tayeb in AMRA AND THE SECOND MARRIAGE

Much of the comedy comes from the film’s eccentric characters with Alshaima’a Tayeb particularly standing out as Amra, a woman torn between strict tradition and the injustice of life as she struggles to come to terms with her new situation. Amra’s loud and spiteful mother-in-law is also hilarious, taking every opportunity to put her daughter-in-law down and make her already unbearable situation even worse.

Yet, while Sabbagh makes good use of his cast, the film isn’t without its flaws. Some of the comedy falls a little flat and too much time is spent on Amra waiting on a sign from God to take action and not enough on the deed itself or the consequences of her actions. A sub story involving one of Amra’s daughters constantly running off with her boyfriend (played by Saudi comedian Mohammad Alhamdan) also doesn’t seem to fit into the narrative, seeming to exist only to fill time rather than add anything significant to the story.

That said, you have to commend Sabbagh for bringing this quirky indie-style comedy which exposes conflicted Saudi mores to a mainstream audience. The western world may not be able to relate to the subject matter but the emotional conflicts are universal.

(3 / 5)

AMRA AND THE SECOND MARRIAGE screens at the BFI London Film Festival on 13 October 2018.

Donna is the Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she is a digital marketing whizz, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage, The Public Reviews and ScreenRelish. Loves Shakespeare, prosecco and Formula 1