‘Yomeddine’ Review: A Leprosy Survivor’s Journey Under the Desert Sun

The star and hero of the warm drama “Yomeddine,” Beshay, is a survivor of leprosy, who has lived in a leper colony in northern Egypt for most of his life. In the seclusion of the colony, he is married and makes his living picking up and selling trash from a local landfill. As played by the magnetic Rady Gamal, a cafeteria worker who was himself cured of leprosy, Beshay’s face and hands bear the scars of illness, but his pride remains intact.

In one of the film’s first surrenders to narrative cliché, Beshay’s wife dies, leading him to venture outside the colony for the first time in his adult life. He hopes to find the family who abandoned him at the colony door. But in a nod to the film’s Arabic title, meaning “Judgment Day,” Beshay’s mission exposes him to scrutiny. “Yomeddine” is not a coming-of-age exactly — Beshay is no adolescent — but his search for a lost part of his identity mimics the patterns of the well-worn bildungsroman genre. And though leprosy may not be a common cinematic hook, the familiarity of the hero’s quest gives Beshay’s journey a lightness and predictability that seems at once welcoming and somewhat weightless.

“Yomeddine” makes its strongest impression through the direction and performances; at times, the story is rather flimsy. In his first narrative feature film, the director A.B. Shawky demonstrates deftness with an inexperienced cast. He shoots with an eye for off-handed gestures, taking care to capture the light so that their skin — whether smooth or pockmarked — glows in the desert sun. But it’s the weathered Gamal who walks away with the movie, his insouciance and soulfulness immediately registering as beauty.

Yomeddine

Not rated. In Arabic, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes.

Source link