Can you name a film or two (or fifty-five) that focuses on love and relationships? I doubt you’ll have an issue doing that. Now, to be more specific, can you name a film or two that focuses on love and relationships between Muslim characters? Unfortunately, you’ll probably be a little more hard-pressed to start that list.
In a mainstream industry that too often wrongly stereotypes and limits Islam to little more than as terroristic faith, Halal Love (And Sex)‘s presence at the acclaimed Sundance Film Festival is a breath of fresh air. As is usually the case when I head to film festivals, I will try to keep my reviews brief, honest and as spoiler-free as possible. Before we jump into this film, let’s check out the trailer:
Simply put, Halal Love (And Sex) is the tale of three loosely connected Muslim couples in Beirut who humorously try to find the balance between romantic and physical desires and remaining devoted to their faith. The film begins with an endearing and hilarious conversation about sex and eventually travels and transitions into the home of a sweet but perhaps sexually insatiable man and his wife who finds herself exhausted with his needs after tending to the house and the children day after day. To solve this hitch in her marriage, the wife sets out to find a second woman for her husband. What follows starts off as a dream, but later takes a predictable left turn.
Across the hall, the aforementioned man and wife’s neighbors are that couple that you know – annoyingly dramatic, breaking up to make up and generally just being a distracting disaster. To give you a quick pop culture reference, they are the televised Jersey Shore‘s Sam and Ronnie. Their fighting soon escalates into a tragic three time verbal divorce, but, as always, this not a permanent decision. Because they cannot live without one another, the couple must devise a plan to make their union official again.
Down the street from the two previous couples is a recently divorced woman who is doing her best to improve her career, but is also giving her all to her quiet romantic relationship with the judgmental and generally terrible, very married grocer in her personal life.
Written and directed by Assad Fouladkar, Halal Love (And Sex)‘s greatest triumphs lie in the quick deliveries and the familiarity of its variety of characters. As many of the basic aspects of love and relationships are universal, each actor portrays a character who is either immensely relatable or vastly recognizable.
The only drawback of the film lies in exactly what also makes it engaging. Because there are three mostly separate storylines going on at the same time, there is little time to really invest in and fully get to know each character. Each individual ends up feeling like a very tangible archetype, which may have been disappointing for a different, less intelligent film, but it works just fine for Halal Love (And Sex).
While this light, comedic film may not be nominated for the big, Western awards, it absolutely deserves attention for its ability to convey very recognizable themes in ways we are rarely fortunate enough to see.
– Khylen Steward, CBS Local