Teen boys cope with first love while their female peer tries to negotiate the minefield of male attraction in Nawaf Al-Janahi's flat sophomore feature, "Sea Shadow."
Teen boys cope with first love while their female peer tries to negotiate the minefield of male attraction in Nawaf Al-Janahi’s flat sophomore feature, “Sea Shadow.” Part of the vanguard of the United Arab Emirates’ burgeoning film industry, the pic has its sweet and sour moments but would benefit from tightening the way it builds and connects scenes. Regional play may benefit from locals excited to see homegrown product, yet the faux-naive script will bother some and hamper offshore fest appearances.
Set in Ras al-Khaimah, one of the more traditional, less-developed Emirati states, the story focuses on Mansoor (Omar Al Mulla), a poor young man with a domineering mom (Aisha Abdul Rahman). Motherless Kaltham (Neven Madi) is attracted to the teen, but she’s also afraid of men; the script fails to clarify whether she was sexually assaulted or simply freaked out by sleazy advances. Mansoor isn’t sure what love is, and asks his experienced friend Sultan (Abrar Al Hamad), though there’s no straightforward answer. Scenes between the two friends are the strong point here, but simple dialogue crosses the line from unsophisticated to simplistic, and the pic rarely comes alive.