ALI’S WEDDING gets 7.5/10 Groomed for success

Directed by Jeffery Walker
Starring Osamah Sami, Don Hany, Helana Sawires

7.5/10

As the son of a popular Muslim cleric (Don Hany), Ali’s (Osamah Sami) life begins to spiral out of control when he tells one little lie. To protect his father’s pride, as well as his own reputation, Ali proclaims that he has received a score capable of getting him into medicine at Melbourne University. Doing so puts him closer to the girl he loves (Helana Sawires), but also puts him closer to an arranged marriage, and a catastrophic downfall that could shame him and his family.

This is a traditional romantic comedy, lifted and transformed by the setting. Look at it in one way, and it is quaint and old fashioned. It cleaves to many of the romance genre tropes, in such a way, that in almost any other film it would cross the line to become twee. Those genre tropes are something Ali’s Wedding embraces, demonstrating in it’s visual lexicon that it is not ashamed of this. In one sequence it’s almost filmed like an alleyway from West Side Story (although the back-alley of a Lebanese fish and chip shop, may actually be less romantic than the mean streets of New York). There’s also a lot of Australiana on display here – a little Looking for Alibrandi, a touch of Baz Luhrmann. Still Ali’s Wedding is its own creature. Devoid of it’s cultural setting, this would be schmaltz, but with it Ali’s Wedding is something richer.

For here culture is everything. It is the setting, it is the character background, it is the cause of conflict, it is the motivation, and it is the resolution. This film is a piece by Muslim Australians addressing the issues arising from having a foot in two, at times, conflicting cultures. Yet it is also an insight to non Muslim Australians of the lives of those various diaspora. Melding tradition with the modern world, and religion with secular society. This never overwhelms the film, it never heads too deeply into message. Rather Ali’s Wedding is always handled with a light comedic touch.

Little surprise that Osamah Sami excels playing a character that he wrote, largely based upon himself (down to sharing Saddam: The Musical on their stage resume). He brings the right balance of light and shade to Ali, as well as a gentle charisma. Ali comes across as a man doing the wrong thing partly motivated by an attempt to please others. Helana Sawires is excellent playing the Australian born Dianne, bringing a fierce independence to the role. The chemistry between Sami and Sawires is so vital in selling the love story of the film, the beating heart of it, and it’s something that they certainly have on screen. Together they do come across as that sweet and very much in love.

Kuddos must also be given to Don Hany, who brings a great amount of comedy and wisdom to Ali’s father. It is obviously a character written by a loving son, and one he manages to embody on the screen.

Ali’s Wedding is a lighthearted, but timely comedy, showing us another side to a multicultural Australia.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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