MOVIE REVIEW: First Muslim rom-com is a true joy
IN A long and established tradition of screen losers, Ali (Osamah Sami) comes out on top.
A brief synopsis of the Iraqi-Australian dreamer's actions would identify him as a liar, a coward and a cheat.
Sami and co-writer Andrew Knight (Hacksaw Ridge, Jack Irish), however, work the mitigating factors surrounding their protagonist's misguided actions with such deft assurance, empathy disarms any tendency to judge.
When Ali's Wedding opens, the hapless protagonist is about to sit Melbourne University's dreaded six hour-long Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test - thus fulfilling the dreams of his father Mahdi (Dony Hany), a progressive Muslim cleric who writes musicals in his spare time.
To bring Ali luck, Mahdi gives him a battered briefcase that belonged to his beloved older brother, killed by a landmine before the family left the Middle East.
No wonder the ill-suited medical student finds it so hard to resist his family's aspirations- even after he fails said exam.
Confronted at the mosque by the self-satisfied son of his father's conservative rival, who nailed it, Ali can't help himself - he makes up an even better score on the spot.
And from there, the situation quickly spirals out of his control. Celebrated at the mosque as its No 1 student, Ali resolves to attend lectures anyway - with the aim of passing the exam the following year.
Now that her son is well on his way to becoming a doctor, Ali's proud mother arranges his marriage to the good-natured and beautiful daughter of an upstanding member of the local community.
This somewhat complicates Ali's relationship with the woman of his dreams, a strong-minded Lebanese beauty (Helana Sawires) and fellow medical student.
Somehow, the right time never seems right to tell her of his impending marriage.
Ali's harebrained US escape plan - on the back of a tour of his father's hit comedy Saddam the Musical - comes unstuck when American custom officers deport the entire troupe as suspected terrorists.
Australia's first mainstream Muslim rom-com, which won the audience award at this year's Sydney Film Festival, is a genuine crowd-pleaser.
Part of the appeal lies in the fact that the screenplay is rooted in real events (Sami's own arranged marriage lasted less than two hours.)
The documentation that accompanies the closing credits - such as Sami's deportation certificate - is a nice authentic touch.
Ali's Wedding opens on Thursday.
Stars: Osamah Sami, Don Hany, Helana Sawires
Director: Jeffrey Walker
Verdict: 3.5 stars