Reviews are all over the place for A. B. Shawky’s Yomeddine, essentially a road movie about a cured leper and an orphan’s journey across Egypt. It’s the only debut feature in competition at Cannes and the first since László Nemes’s Son of Saul three years ago. While Barbara Scharres, dispatching to RogerEbert.com, declares it to be “the front-runner for feel-good movie of the festival,” the A.V. Club’s A. A. Dowd finds it “aggressively maudlin.”
Variety’s Jay Weissberg argues that Shawky “shows a sure hand with his non-professional actors and, together with Argentinian cinematographer Federico Cesca, demonstrates a fine compositional eye.” As the leper, Rady Gamal “holds the screen in a performance characterized by wounded dignity that’s never mawkish.”
The orphan, nicknamed “Obama,” is played by Ahmed Abdelhafiz and, as the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw somewhat disapprovingly observes, they have “many wildly implausible adventures together on the road, the unlikely nature of which we are encouraged to overlook in the interests of sympathizing with his condition and applauding his stoicism and courage.”
But Screen’s Tim Grierson is among those willing to forgive the film’s occasional lapses into sentimentality. Yomeddine makes up “in grace what it lacks in urgency.”
In the Hollywood Reporter, Boyd van Hoeij gives credit where credit is due. “Practically all of the moments in which Yomeddine soars emotionally are dictated or greatly aided by U.S. composer Omar Fadel’s glorious and full-bodied score, clearly the MVP of artistic contributions here.”
More from John Bleasdale (CineVue, 4/5), Mónica Delgado (desistfilm), Eric Kohn (IndieWire, B), Eric Lavallée (Ioncinema, 1/5), Manuela Lazic (Little White Lies), Fabien Lemercier (Cineuropa), Steve Pond (TheWrap), Shelagh Rowan-Legg (ScreenAnarchy), and Marc van de Klashorst (International Cinephile Society).
Update, 5/27: At the House Next Door, Sam C. Mac explains why “Yomeddine secretly more conservative than it thinks it is.”
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