Although I had it on my hard disk since the middle of December, I have decided to wait and watch Keif Al Hal on the TV screen instead of my laptop 14″ screen when LBC aired it on New Year’s Eve. Before going into my opinion about the movie, let me say that I totally agree with Abdullah Al Ayaf, a Saudi director, that the whole fuss over who made the first Saudi movie is irrelevant. It doesn’t really matter which movie was the first as much as which one is the best.
Prior to watching the movie, I had read almost every review written about it. The only friend who watched it told me it was very, very bad. He described it as a piece of crap, the worst movie he watched ever. When it was time to watch it, I put all that aside and sat on the couch with my roommate trying to enjoy it without any of the reviews in mind.
I think the main problem with the movie is that it doesn’t tell the story very well. I never heard of Bilal Fadhl before, I respect Mohammed Ridha as a reporter and critic, but I think Keif Al Hal would have been better off if the story was written by Saudis.
All the issues that the movie touches on are real and persistent in our society, but the correlation between these issues and the story is sometimes vague. I think the movie makers have made a mistake when they tried to make it “all things Saudi.” However, credits should be given to them for not trying to presume/suggest/impose solutions for our social plagues.
Casting was also one of the weaknesses of the movie. I wonder if the producers considered at any point the likes of Abdul-Rahman Al Nemr, Nasser Al Qasabi and Abdullah Al Sadhan or other good local actors to play some roles. Choosing Emarati actors for some roles was wrong. None of the actors performed exceptionally; the performance was mostly average or below. I was expecting more from Hisham Al Huwaish (Sultan); Ali Al Sebaa (the father) was slow like a robot; and Khaled Sami (the grandfather) has taken it so far.
I think Rotana intention was to make a romance-comedy movie, but did not quite achieved that. The “thing” between Sultan and Sahar (played by Jordanian actress Mais Hamdan) can hardly be considered a love story, and the lame jokes of the grandfather doesn’t make it a comedy.
My verdict: good; not great, not even very good, but good nevertheless. It is definitely better than I expected, especially after all the negative reviews, and it left me optimistic about what Saudis can make in the movie business even in the absence of film theaters in the country. Considering the large number of good Saudi novels published recently, I think the next Saudi movie should be based on one of these novels instead of writing one from scratch. Novels such as Al-Irahbi 20 by Abdullah Thabit and Al-Bahriat by Omaima Al Khamis are two good examples to start with. My rating of Keif Al Hal: 2.5/5.