As Hala struggles with her secret life, she makes other rather alarming discoveries about those she looked up to, listened to, and believed. This, in turn, makes her question who she is and where she is going. It’s not the big plot points that are most effective, but the ones in between. The recoil and reflection that allows Viswanathan to soak up screentime and watch her emote without a word.
“…crafted a remarkable feature as she captures life as a Muslim in America without the caustic lens of prejudice.”
Minhal Baig has crafted a remarkable feature as she captures life as a Muslim in America without the caustic lens of prejudice. The trite plot device of discrimination is all but abandoned in favor of introspective themes of belonging. It’s not all perfection to be sure; there are a few threads in the plot that seem to instantly disappear like a teenage attention span. There are other questionable moments that leave us scratching our head in the third act of the film thinking that could have easily been rounded out to leverage better balance in the otherwise disciplined narrative.
This is what teenagers go through every day, we’ve all been there, and this feels fresh, as we have a female protagonist that is definitely more than what she is told she should be and ultimately rewarded for it. Hala is a breath of fresh air that reminds us that as long as we live authentically, with compassion and understanding, the world around us is far easier to deal with.
Hala screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, the 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival, and the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.