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The Last Friday is a well-thought-out piece of filmmaking that fails to take that crucial friendly step towards its audience. Its bleak take on individual isolation in a cold modern society won post-production financing at San Sebastian this year, followed by the Special Jury Award and two other prizes at the Dubai Film Festival. Beyond the Arab world, however, the downbeat subject will make it a hard sell with audiences, though this first feature should earn director Yahya Al Abdallah the attention of fest programmers.
A little disappointingly, there’s little that is specifically Jordanian in this sober tale set in Amman, whose story could be told in any modern metropolis. Yousef (played by Ali Suliman, a veteran familiar from the films of Elia Suleiman as well as Body of Lies) has only a few days to find money for a crucial surgical operation. A compulsive gambler, he lost his home, his wife (the beautiful Yasmine Al Masri of Caramel) and all his savings years ago at the poker table. Even his job as a car showroom salesman has been downgraded to that of a company driver. Though the backstory is implicit rather than spelled out, it explains and nuances Yousef’s estrangement from society and his family. The urgency of the moment forces him out of his solitude and on a hurried search for money.
Paralleling his wasted life is that of his unpromising teenage son Emad (Fadi Arida), who cuts school, steals from Dad’s wallet and generally screws up. Both Suliman’s morose, uncompromising father and young Arida’s brash but insecure son are painfully on target, generating a convincingly destructive father-son chemistry. Suliman’s strong, nearly wordless characterization of Yousef as a loser who struggles with misplaced pride and self-sacrifice won him best actor kudos at Dubai.
It’s night a lot in this dark drama, finely captured on digital blown up to 35mm by D.P. Rachel Aoun. The long-held shots of the sober, fixed-frame camerawork tend to stretch on and on. Underscoring the action is a mellow, award-winning soundtrack by Le Trio Joubran.
Venue: Dubai Film Festival (Muhr Arab Feature competition)
Cast: Ali Suliman, Yasmine Al Masri
Production companies: The Royal Film Commission Jordan in association with ME Films, Dubai Film Market (Enjaaz)
Director: Yahya Al Abdallah
Screenwriters: Yahya Al Abdallah
Producers: Rula Nasser, Majd Hijjawi, Yahya Al Abdallah
Executive producers: George David, Mohammad Al Bakri
Director of photography: Rachel Aoun
Production designer: Samir Zaidan
Music: Le Trio Jubran
Editor: Mohammad Suleiman
Sales Agent: The Royal Film Commission Jordan
No rating, 88 minutes
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