Souad gives audiences a taste of the lives of a group of teenagers that reside in Cairo, Egypt. Souad, Rabab and Ahmed are all struggling with some form of social problem or another and all have some a connection to Social media.
Souad is very much a slice of life film, the plot consists mostly of every day events in all of the characters lives. As such, the story isn’t unique at all and the only source of originality in the film is its setting. It wouldn’t seem original to an Egyptian audience however. What does make the setting interesting though is how social media affects the lives of all of these characters. It’s very much the same as it would be in an American or British setting which is surprising as you wouldn’t think that things like Facebook and TikTok were as prevalent in a country like Egypt. It just goes to show that though culture in terms of country can vary quite significantly from place to place, age based culture is a fairly universally shared concept.
Suoad does tackle the sins of social media in much the same way a Western film would. It is interesting to see from a young Muslim woman’s perspective but this element is sort of given up on half way through the film. This isn’t necessarily abandoned for a bad reason, but the films unique voice is lost by the second act.
The quality of acting in Souad keeps the film from being the emotional and gritty story that it wants to be. None of the actors really seem to be fully with it. They’re not wooden by any means and some of the characters are quite compelling. There just aren’t any stand out actors and some scenes that should be heartbreaking don’t quite hit the mark thanks to lacklustre performances.
Another interesting thing Souad seems to be doing for a lot of its runtime is evade the presence of men. The main character, Souad, is often alone and when she’s got company it’s always of the female variety, except for her father who briefly appears to demand her to do things. She only ever talks to men through voice notes on her phone and she’s almost always ignored. Again, this could have been an interesting way to show how alone young women in Egypt can feel and the gender politics of the country. But this is also scrapped when the story starts to focus on a male character.
Souad has got a lot of soul, but unfortunately it’s not quite sure what story it wants to tell and what themes it wants to tackle. It’s a nice experience, especially if you want to watch what is essentially an Egyptian answer to a Ken Loach film. Sadly though, with a script that lacks complete focus, acting that doesn’t really inspire and pretty bland directing (which is still more intimate and engaging than the likes of Sorry We Missed You) your time would probably be best spent elsewhere.
Souad will release in select cinemas August 27th