A potentially powerful story about a love affair that leads to a devastating clash of cultures, “Leila” is torpedoed by the inexplicable use of a narrator telling the viewer (in French) what’s happening on the screen and what the actors are saying to each other. Danish-produced pic looks unlikely to travel very far beyond Francophone territories.
Central character is Leila (Melania Douteys), a beautiful 16-year-old who lives with her family outside Marrakesh. When she meets young Danish tourist Nils (Arnaud Binard), the two immediately fall in forbidden love. Leila’s father and brother discover what’s going on and consider killing her; finally, they opt to give her as a bride to a crooked old businessman in town, but on her wedding night, Nils and some of his friends decide to rescue her. Vet director Gabriel Axel (“Babette’s Feast”) shot the film on location in Morocco, but apart from some atmospheric scenes showing street-life in Marrakesh, pic feels tepid and devoid of emotional involvement. Due to the use of v.o., the two leads never get a real chance to convey their characters’ emotions.