Writer/director Haiffa Al-Mansour’s Saudi set tale tells the story of over-worked doctor Maryam Abdulaziz (Mila Al Zahrani) who, while applying for a job in Dubai, dispassionately signs up to run for office in the municipal council elections. Despite her candidacy being a formality to acquire paperwork for a job application, Maryam (the first female candidate) decides to build a campaign with her focus/aim to repair the damaged road leading to the hospital where she works.
Al-Mansour (Wadja, Mary Shelley) crafts a featherweight sashay through Riyadh’s cultural and political landscape with likeable/interesting characters, but the script/concept’s key themes should have better extrapolated then utilised to inform the drama to make it more commanding. Frustration and obstacles arise in the guise of societal/cultural sexism, conspiratorial MOs, ulterior motives, negative mindsets and a lack of peer support for Maryam, but the issues feel overly moderated to make TPC wieldy.
Characters, dynamics and contexts are aptly established during the set-up, yet the drama wanes/feels downplayed as the plot progresses then momentarily dithers before elevating near the end. Characters relay particulars to elongate the duration, but its story stalls a little and slows the film down. Maryam’s campaign runs parallel with a subplot about her musician father’s oud-led band tour. This feels gawkily woven but is efficiently resolved and made pertinent during a poignant scene between Maryam and her father.
The second half sees Maryam build a campaign with the help of her sisters Sara (Nora Al Awadh) and Selma (Dae Al Hilala), debate with a TV chat show host and ask a colleague to help promote her candidacy at an event that women aren’t allowed to attend. This culminates in a compelling scene that makes TPC more engaging but it doesn’t veer the story into a new direction as needed. Nor does it alter the tone, advance Maryam or heighten the drama enough to rivet.
Despite a breezy relay, TPC feels like it could have been more of an engaging and powerhouse account/exposé. While it far from flatlines Al-Mansour’s film fluctuates and feels too light to be as potent or significant as the themes that underfeed it. Arcs align in the final third, a twist occurs and Maryam’s story is neatly concluded, but the drama needed seeding at an earlier stage for the themes to properly flourish/strengthen. While it’s still predominantly interesting and entertaining, TPC flutters like a feather in a breeze, or a transitory afterthought about something more important.