We hit up Empire Cinemas at Dunes Verdun to catch the much buzzed about newly released Yalla 3a2belkon on Thursday. I had two events that evening but I was happy to still be able to catch a movie that night, since Dunes Verdun’s cinema is the only one that runs across the 9:00pm segment which I personally favor since it’s not too early nor too late, so my night didn’t necessarily end after the show and I was still able to grab dinner afterwards. And let me tell you those leather seats at the cinema were like Lazy Boys, with two private arm rests and considerable leg space, we were sprawled across theater comfortably.
The movie comedically touches on a subject that I’ve discussed regularly on this blog and I know many ladies in Lebanon and the Middle East face in their thirties, societal expectations and the profound pressure on a woman to get married and start a family and how that, regardless of her career will be pedestaled as the sole indicator of true success in her life; hence the name Yalla 3a2belkon a traditional phrase most people throw around at most single people, predominantly women, at weddings which translates into -If god’s willing your next-in line!
Yalla 3a2belkon centers around the trials and tribulations of four friends and their pursuit of love with beautiful Beirut as the backdrop. First there’s Yasmina, played by in my opinion by one of the best and most underrated Lebanese actresses; Darine Hamze who left a lasting impression on me from her role in the controversial movie Beirut Hotel. Yasmina’s in a long-distance relationship was a mysterious handsome Egyptian man who’s relationship revolves around hot rompy weekend hotel sessions and who’s mother’s ( who embodies a very hilarious cliché ) main mission and agony in life will depend on Yasmina’s ability to find a man and produce children. Taline (played by Nada Abou Farhat who I also adored in the critically acclaimed play Reasons to be Pretty is not your average Lebanese woman, an outspoken, sexually-liberated art dealer, who treats men as nothing but toys. Layan, played by the writer and producer of the film Nibal Arakji, a fashion designer who’s in a vicious cycle dating a philandering married man with children. And finally, Zeena played by Marwa Khalil, a hopeless romantic doctor who will go on as many dates as she has to in order to find the love of her life.
I loved how the characters weren’t cast as your typically beautiful movie stars, rather they were relatable and could have easily been any group of four women in Beirut. The story sheds light on the hypocritical and judgmental Lebanese society, giving real insight into a number of issues and taboos Lebanese woman face.
And sure, the movie has been accused of taking inspiration from Sex and the City, but to be fair, almost every movie or series that focuses on women and relationships will definitely intentionally or not draw in reference from there, only because today Sex and the City has become the universal holy grail of our genre. Having said that, you can’t miss the conspicuous similarities between Nada Abou Farhat’s proudly- promiscuous character with that of the infamous Samantha Jones of Sex and the City both in personality and even fashion. And for someone who’s usually fed-up of our shameless borrowing of all things “Western”, I have to say, the big SATC fan in me was so pleased to see what the Lebanese version of Samantha would look like, only because Nada Abou Farhat hits this one right out of the ballpark. Her character was so shocking but she portrayed her subtly, none of that Lebanese over acting or cheesiness.
Whether you enjoyed the film or not, there is no doubt it’s one of the best and highest quality productions coming out of Lebanon.. From the screenplay, the meticulous sets and scenes to the intense character development. And it made us laugh, out load, something no Lebanese film has managed to do in a long, long time. I do however think the movie is a tad longer than necessary for a feature film, some scenes seemed to have dragged on unnecessarily.
Yalla 3a2belkon although fun and light-hearted is a strong film with a strong message and who’s strength lies in a powerful cast of 4 leading ladies who share so much chemistry on screen. Directed by Elie Khalife.
Yalla 3a2belkon is now showing Empire Cinema at Dunes Verdun. Book your tickets in advance at this number, 01-792123 and enjoy those seats. Parking is free in the center for moviegoers.