Rent The Perfect Candidate (2019)

3.5 of 5 from 166 ratings
1h 45min
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After her debut feature Wadjda (2012) broke new ground as the first-ever film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia - and the first made by a Saudi woman - director Haifaa Al Mansour returns to the kingdom with The Perfect Candidate. A determined young Saudi doctor's surprise run for office in the local city elections sweeps up her family and community as they struggle to accept their town's first female candidate.
Mila Al Zahrani, Dae Al Hilali, Nora Al Awad, Khalid Abdulraheem, Shafi Alharthy, Tareq Al Khaldi, Khadeeja Mua'th, Rakan Abdulhaman, Nojoud Ahmed, Naser Al Algeel, Saeed Almana, Ahmad Alsulaimy, Abdullah Ateeg, Reem Fahad, Waleed Ghannam, Bandar Hadadi, Bandar Al Khodair, Hamad Al Mazaini, Muhamad Ebraheem Musa, Ismaee Nasser
Haifaa Al-Mansour, Gerhard Meixner, Brad Niemann, Roman Paul
Voiced By:
Reema Mohammed
Haifaa Al-Mansour, Brad Niemann
Modern Films
Saudi Arabia
Release Date:
Run Time:
105 minutes
Arabic Dolby Digital 5.1, English Audio Description
English, English Hard of Hearing
DVD Regions:
Region 2
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 1.78:1 / 16:9
  • In Conversation with Director Haifaa Al Mansour - Live at BFI Southbank on International Women's Day

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Reviews (4) of The Perfect Candidate

Gentle drama portraying a serious theme - The Perfect Candidate review by PD

Spoiler Alert

This film from Haifaa al-Mansour centres around plucky young Saudi Arabian doctor Maryam (Mila Al Zahrani), who makes an impulsive decision to run for her local municipal council seat. In a nation where women are not even welcome to openly address a congregation of men, it’s a bold move, even if the last decade has seen a relaxing of strict laws concerning travel, driving and employment. As a doctor in an overcrowded local walk-in clinic, Maryam carries herself with admirable confidence, but she meets obstacles frequently, inevitably resenting that she can’t aspire to higher aims in the medical field or find a chance to prove her worth to her society at large.

The film's matter-of-fact, unsentimental tone is successful, and there are some really good scenes, notably one in an airport where Maryam is faced with the humiliation of not being able to travel to an outdated permit which needs renewing by her father, and a niqab fashion show, which offers a pointed and positive representation of a garment that has been fraught with negative political meaning. Much of the film focuses on the connective tissue between Maryam and her sisters, who have not long ago lost their mother and also have a close relationship with their musician father, although this theme is a tad too rose-tinted to be entirely convincing.

The film may be rather gentle to leave a lasting impression, and it's all a bit convenient the way Maryam is reconciled to the world around her so quickly, given how judgemental we keep being told it is by the characters; indeed, we are shown very little regarding the fallout of her decision: perhaps al-Mansour is working too hard to gain approval for her character’s strident feminism. Nevertheless, all in all it's a likable exploration of female optimism and democratic willpower in a deeply conservative society, and the final shot is absolutely terrific.

3 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

A careful probe into women's suffrage in Saudi Arabia - The Perfect Candidate review by JL

Spoiler Alert

One wants to be thankful for this courageous assault on the sexist and generally 19th-century attitudes towards women in Haifaa al-Mansour's second feature. And in many ways she succeeds by venting her frustration with the complacency and limited social horizons of the men who run everyone's life in Saudi Arabia. Of course our heroine (sorry for the plot spoiler) fails in her attempts to get herself elected to her local council, but we're grateful that we've been able to watch her try. So I'm glad I've seen this film, but if you located the plotting to any western locality you wouldn't bother with such a careful and extremely modest tale. In short, it is worth seeing for its insights into Saudia Arabian society, just don't expect any fireworks by our usual standards. At least there's one heart-warming sign of progress – an elderly male hospital patient finally relents and accepts, gratefully, the care and expertise of our heroine (a politically active doctor) after refusing to let her anywhere near him.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

A very inspiring story - The Perfect Candidate review by Maureen

Spoiler Alert

This film depicts the extraordinary tale of a young woman in Saudi Arabia who decides to stand for her local council with the main object of persuading them to repair the road to the hospital where she works. The election is rigged but the road is repaired, so she has succeeded in her aim. In becoming so public she faces considerable opposition but no violence. The film shows the conformity of the public with men and women all having standard clothing, so many features of that country remain as they were but the fact that a woman is prepared to become public and serve in local government clashes with what we have always understood about Saudi Arabia. A fine film.

George R.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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