Wadjda has a big toothy smile. Her abaya is always dusty. Her sheyla doesn’t ever stay in place. Her converse shoes are scruffy. Her best friend is Abdullah. She yearns for a bicycle. She is 11. And, if you don’t fall in love with Reem Abdullah (plays Wadjda) by the end of the film, you probably have emotional issues.
Watching Wadjda on a flight was not a good idea. It’s all fine when you giggle through some of the scenes, but at the very end you can’t help but shed a few tears.
This brilliant film is not just about a little girl’s ploy to buy a bicycle, but touches upon so many other social issues in Saudi Arabia. The mother who can’t have a son, and hence has to see the husband she loves take another wife; The women who can’t drive and have to endure the whims of the driver; Of young girls who might lose their virginity to bicycle saddles; Of gender-segregated schools, child marriages and girl crushes.
Reem is clearly the star of the show. But Waad Mohammed (the mother), Abdulrahman Al Gohani (Abdullah), and Ahd (Ms Hussa the school principal) play stellar roles.
Wadjda gets the bicycle, but not quite how she intended to.
The film is shot entirely in Riyadh (looks so much like Doha), and the director Haifaa Al-Mansour has kept the narrative simple and endearing. Do watch the film, it will be time well-spent. It’s good to watch with kids too.