Frank’s Takes on Foreign Film Series: Theeb




Moving from the spookfest that was October, November brings us the first Jordanian Arabic  film to be nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards. That is a big deal! This under-the-radar film is known simply as Theeb.

Plots & thoughts

Theeb is directed and written by Naji Abu Nowar, who, upon further research, has racked up quite the amount of nominations and awards. That said, there is certainly a lot of hype going into this film. It tells the coming-of-age story of two young brothers living in the outskirts of the early 20th century of an extremely remote desert. That is all I am going to say because if I dive any deeper into the story, I believe that would be a spoiler, and I would never do that to fellow Rangers.

The story is told through the perspective of Theeb, a hard headed, innocent young boy who believes he can do anything, and I mean that in a good way. Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat gives a very natural but charming performance as Theeb, a kid who genuinely wants to push his limits, whether it is modeling himself after his older brother or challenging the boundaries of his everyday surroundings.

The writing also deserves praise as the storytelling hints at a bigger picture beyond the reach of Theeb through snippets of overheard dialogue between adults. For example, he hears about the Turkish invasions, industrialization, and the dividing of a whole new country. However, since Theeb is a child, these problems do not directly affect him; he understands very little of it.

While this is a very good looking film, from its beautiful shots of desert landscape to its color design, there is a pacing problem that looms over the film. There are times where it feels very disjointed and somewhat slow. I will not give anything away, but the climax, for example, could have taken place a little sooner than it did; I found myself checking my watch a few times.

Overall thoughts

All in all, Theeb will most likely be an acquired taste for audiences. The performances of the cast are strong and deliver when needed, especially from its main protagonist. However, its slow pace makes for a somewhat dull movie experience and hinders its “rewatchable factor.” In my opinion, this film made for a little-above-average, coming-of-age foreign story and that is as much as I can say for it.

I am giving Theeb a “C+” on my movie-grading scale. While I cannot recommend this film as a must-see, I will commend it for giving the movie world a solid introduction to a strong-willed underdog character that audiences will certainly remember.

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