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.

Sea Shadow

United Arab Emirates

Production

An Empire Intl. release of an Image Nation Abu Dhabi production, in association with Fortissimo Films. (International sales: Fortissimo Films, Amsterdam.) Produced by Rami Yasin, Daniela Tully. Executive producer, Stefan Brunner. Directed by Nawaf Al-Janahi. Screenplay, Mohammed Hassan Ahmed.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Paulo Ares; editors, Tony Ruthnam, Raul Skopecz; music, Ibrahim Al Amiri; production designer, Martin Sullivan; art director, Pranali Diwadkar; costume designer, Angela Schnoeke-Paasch. Reviewed at Abu Dhabi Film Festival (New Horizons), Oct. 19, 2011. Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Omar Al Mulla, Neven Madi, Abrar Al Hamad, Khadeeja Al Taie, Mariam Hussein, Bilal Abdullah, Aisha Abdul Rahman, Hassan Rajab, Ahmad Iraj, Ali Al Jabiri.

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