Alex Heeney reviews Hinde Boujemaa’s engrossing film, Noura’s Dream, which is on the level of past Discovery titles like Hope Dickson Leach’s The Levelling and Joachim Trier’s Reprise.
Every year, there is at least one TIFF Discovery title that is so good and so masterful, it’s hard to believe it’s a first feature. Hinde Boujemaa’s engrossing film, Noura’s Dream, is just that — on the level of past Discovery titles like Hope Dickson Leach’s The Levelling and Joachim Trier’s Reprise. The film tells the story of Noura (a terrific Hind Sabri), a mother of three caught between two crummy romantic partners: her abusive husband, unexpectedly home from prison, whom she wants to divorce, and Lassaad, her lover. To make matters worse, if Noura’s adultery with Lassaad is discovered, they could both be sentenced to five years in prison.
Though her divorce will come through within five days, it takes little time for her returned husband to start upending her life and wreaking havoc we fear she won’t escape. His harassment of her starts small — requesting the key to and address of their new place, pawing lustily at her at night — but escalates quickly, as she finds herself first locked out of her home, and then forced to help lure her lover into a trap so her husband can beat him up (and more). Soon, her husband and lover are engaged in a game of one-upmanship to prove their manhood while Noura seems like nothing but a convenient excuse for displaying their power. There are no happy endings with these men.
Throughout, Noura weathers every indignation quietly, not because she’s unwilling to fight for herself, but because she’s picking her battles. In this world where men reign, and rarely leave Noura’s frame, the only way to survive is to play the game. Whether it’s her husband’s knee next to her head as Noura sleeps, or someone powerful poking their head into the frame, we sense danger at every turn, that Noura has no chance to rest. Boujemaa’s two-shots are particularly powerful, often highlighting the schism between Noura’s experience and the one of the man she’s with. Heartbreaking and powerful, Noura’s Dream is a must-see.
Noura’s Dream is still seeking distribution in the US, UK, and Canada.
Noura’s Dream screens 9/9 at 9:15 p.m. (Scotiabank), 9/11 at 3:30 p.m. (TIFF Bell Lightbox), and 9/14 at 6:30 p.m. (Scotiabank). Tickets here.