When the secret American boyfriend of a Jordanian student turns up at her wealthy family’s home during a wedding, their relationship problems prove far larger than “A 7 Hour Difference.” This breezy romantic comedy from tyro helmer-scribe Deema Amr, the first woman to direct a feature in Jordan, has a sitcom sensibility but addresses issues of family and culture with sincerity and cultural specificity. A PG-level crowdpleaser, the pic could sell in territories where bright young students are expected to return from abroad with a degree rather than a significant other.
Reviewed at Dubai Film Festival (competing), Dec. 11, 2012. Running time: 80 MIN.
Boston architecture student Dalia (Randa Karadsheh, an unconventionally attractive comedian with real acting chops) returns home to Amman for the wedding of her older sister, Lina (Manal Suheimat), but gets thrown for a loop when longtime beau Jason (Thom Bishops, overdoing the ugly-American behavior a tad) turns up with her perky best friend, Rula (Leila Arabi). While investment consultant Faisal (Eyas Younis, smooth in English and Arabic), an employee of Dalia’s widowed father, Osama (Ghassan Al-Mashini), eyes the unexpected guest with increasing jealousy and suspicion, Jason turns inappropriately romantic and controlling by turns.
Dalia has never mentioned her relationship with Jason to her father or sister, knowing they would never approve because of his different religion and cultural background. But when Osama gives Dalia a stunning graduation gift — an office space in downtown Amman — and Jason proposes, Dalia is forced to evaluate her life and decide where her happiness lies.
Amr’s screenplay stacks the deck against Jason, who turns out to be moody and insensitive, expecting Dalia to live in Boston and celebrate Christmas with his family. Although it may seem odd that the two have been together for three years without having crucial discussions about their future, it’s also clear this dialogue is something Dalia wants to postpone. On the lighter side, Jason’s behavior sparks some amusingly stereotypical comments from Dalia’s extended family (“Americans always think about armies and wars,” “Americans love popping pills,” etc.).
While Amr’s film is reportedly also Jordan’s first romantic comedy, it is the backdrop of Lina’s wedding that makes it unique. We witness the Jordanian tradition of the jaha, in which men from the groom’s family arrive at the bride’s house for a special males-only ceremony, and a Muslim wedding complete with a zaffah, a procession led by traditional musicians and dancers.
After a fluidly edited montage showing the preparations for the wedding and Dalia’s family’s enormous villa, the pic’s visuals settle into a shot/reverse shot/establishing shot pattern that becomes tiresome. However, the heavily used score and multiple scenes of music and dancing provide a jolt of energy.