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When Monaliza Smiled

Dir/scr: Fadi G. Haddad. Jordan. 2012. 95mins

When Monaliza Smiled (Lamma Dehkat Monaliza) is, of all things, a Jordanian rom-com made with a whole lot of respect for the genre and yet coming up with something engagingly modest and suitably sweet natured to work for a local audience.

In truth When Monaliza Smiled offers nothing remarkable or original…but it does it in a gently enjoyable way.

Monaliza (Tahani Salim) is modest, quiet and never known to smile. She lives with her demanding sister Afaf (Haifa Al Agha) who never leaves their modest flat and expects Monaliza to do everything for her.

She gets a job – much to her sister’s annoyance – working as an assistant at the Directorate of Research and Documentation, but struggles to be cheerful and friendly around her co-workers. She is gradually intrigued, though, by office coffee maker Hamdi (and computer wizard), an affable Egyptian with an easy smile and a genial attitude.

Against all of the odds the pair start to share a tentative romance. Both love films – she from her sofa watching television – and he takes her for her first visit to an old cinema where the two dream for a life of the romantic films of yesteryear.

Their romance is challenged and interrupted by those around them – by her sister and neighbours and by her work colleagues – while Hamdi finds himself faced with the prospect of having to leave the country. Gradually Monaliza learns to smile, but she must fight to keep her happiness.

There is even a rather charming reference to Hollywood and Jerry Maguire when she is explaining hurridly to Hamdi why he shouldn’t leave on a bus for Egypt, when he comments back to her “you had me at I’m a dumbass”.

Tahani Salim is a vibrant personality and works well as a women gradually growing and changing, and there are plenty of comedy asides (such as her gossipy co-workers Farah and Marah) to keep the film moving at a nice pace. In truth When Monaliza Smiled offers nothing remarkable or original…but it does it in a gently enjoyable way.

Production companies: Made in Amman Productions, Royal Jordanian Film Commission

Producer/sales contact: nadia.eliewat@gmail.com

Executive producer: Nadine Toutcan

Cinematography: Samer Nimri

Editor: Fadi G. Haddad

Music: Dr.Najati Al Suloh

Main cast: Tahani Salim, Shady Khalaf, Haifa Al Agha, Suha Najjar, Haidar Kfouf, Fouad Al Shomali, Nadera Omran

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