In Meshal Aljaser’s exhilaratingly madcap thriller, a young woman stranded in the Arabian desert races to be home before curfew under the threat of extreme punishment from her scary strict father.
When it comes to disobedience in Saudi Arabia, the repercussions can be extreme. And so when Sarah (Adwa Bader), a young Saudi woman, is given a strict curfew by her conservative father for an approved shopping trip, she knows that she must meet his expectations by any means necessary. Especially since Sarah’s shopping plans are actually subterfuge for a secret date with Saad, a young suitor who just scored her an invitation to an underground party in the desert. The best-laid deception goes quickly awry, and Sarah, now high out of her gourd, gets stranded miles away from home. Dodging a parade of arrogant and creepy men, not to mention a bloodthirsty, rabid camel, Sarah — portrayed with a cool conviction by Bader — sets out on a wild adventure through distinct spheres of contemporary Saudi society in a desperate race against a ticking clock.
Writer-director Meshal Aljaser wastes no time establishing the stakes of his madcap satirical thriller, opening the film in 1970 with a shocking act of patriarchal violence that lingers as a spectre over the film’s contemporary crisis. Oscillating from pointed social comedy to outright creature feature (both terrifying in their own way), Sarah’s nesting doll of obstacles recalls the escalating chaos of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours or the Safdie brothers’ Good Time, and Aljaser shoots it all with a strikingly stylish verve and a wicked wit that suggests the start of a most auspicious career.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: strobing effects, violence, accident trauma, drug use, coarse language