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.

The Perfect Candidate Review
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Daniel Goodwin is a prevalent film writer for multiple websites including HeyUGuys, Scream Horror Magazine, Little White Lies, i-D and Dazed. After studying Film, Media and Cultural Studies at university and Creative Writing at the London School of Journalism, Daniel went on to work in TV production for Hat Trick Productions, So Television and The London Studios. He has also worked at the Home Office, in the private office of Hilary Benn MP and the Coroner's and Burials Department, as well as on the Movies on Pay TV market investigation for the Competition Commission.
the-perfect-candidate-reviewWhile it’s still predominantly interesting and entertaining, TPC flutters like a feather in a breeze, or a transitory afterthought about something more important.