Film: "Yomeddine"; Director: A. B. Shawky; Cast: Rady Gamal, Ahmed Abdelhafiz, Shoq Emara, Hany El-Tabei, Yasser El-Ayouti, Galal El Ashry, Mohamed Abdelazim; Rating: ***
Debutante Director, A. B. Shawky's Yomeddine is a simple film that has all the trappings of a familiar road film. It has an odd pair for protagonists, an appropriate combination of drama and melodrama that often leads to some chuckles and tugs at the heartstrings and the occasional dosage of social criticism that makes you reflect internally.
The narrative begins at a garbage dump on the outskirts of a town in North Egypt, where we get to see Beshay (Rady Gamal), a former leper with his deformed hands and fingers scavenging. He lives in a leper colony, eking out a living with his donkey Harby by selling the salvageable trash he collects.
Though abandoned at the colony as a child, by his father, he is a happy-go-lucky man. But after the death of his mentally ill wife Ireny (Shoq Emara), when his mother-in-law visits him, he craves to seek out his own family in Qena which is far South from where he resides.
So, with his worldly belongings stacked on the cart pulled by Harby, he sets out on his journey.
Unbeknownst to him, his young friend an orphan who calls himself Obama (Ahmed Abdelhafiz) piles on to him as a stowaway. But, by the time he realises Obama is on his cart, it is too late to send him back to the orphanage. So the two continue on their epic journey. On the road, the duo encounter numerous people who give us an insight into human frailties and goodness.
The plot does not contain any dramatic inciting moments and at times there are moments when the easy route is taken, thus leading the narrative to be predictable and overtly familiar. The flashbacks as dream sequences appear jarring and forced.
But it is the subject and their performances that keeps you glued to the screen. Rady Gamal, a non-actor is natural before the camera and you can feel his pain when he holds the screen with a performance characterised by wounded dignity that is never over emotional. While the result of leprosy is inescapable on his visage, his shallow eye sockets and tangle of wrinkles have a certain expressive harmony which becomes ever more evident as the film progresses.
On the other hand, a perfectly normal Ahmed Abdelhafiz with his playful boyish charm worms his way into your heart with his naivety and the unfailing bond he shares with Gamal. The duo enjoys a warm relationship which certainly steals your heart.
The other characters who leave an indelible mark on screen are the three friends, a set of outcast who befriend Beshay and Obama. Prominent among them is Yasser El- Ayouti, as Hamed, the legless former truck driver whose jocular directness and self-assurance are a tonic for Beshay's frayed confidence.
Mounted with moderate production values the visuals by Cinematographer Federico Cesca are attractive and are seamlessly accompanied by Composer Omar Fadel's glorious and full-bodied score.
Overall, Yomeddine which means Judgement Day in Arabic, is a sweet engaging film that does not indulge in poverty or pity porn.