If Ali’s Wedding proves anything, its that romance clichés can be found in every culture.
Ali’s Wedding (2017) is an Australian dramedy romance directed by Jeffrey Walker. It stars (and is also co-written by) Osamah Sami as Ali, a young Muslim living in Melbourne Australia who is embroiled in a lie after falsifying him being accepted into medicine at University. At the same time he also has to deal with his family forcing him into an arranged marriage while his heart is set on an Australian-born Lebanese girl called Dianne (Helana Sawires).
Its clear Ali’s Wedding is a very personal project for Sami considering its based on his life story. And thankfully that earnestness shines through. The film starts with the phrase ‘this is a true story… unfortunately’ and while certainly things have been heightened for the silver screen its just ridiculous enough while being grounded that you can see the events on screen actually happening. Its a story about many things – showcasing the Muslim community in Australia, fighting against traditional boundaries and staying true to one’s passions, and all these ideas and more are presented in a light and fluffy package that gets the point across without hammering it home.
And as writing goes, Sami is actually quite good. Likely helped along by Hacksaw Ridge writer Andrew Knight, the script happily bounds along from one amusing situation to another in a way that mostly feels natural. Its also quite funny – this isn’t a comedy in the traditional sense but Sami clearly has quite a wit to him and must’ve had plenty of real-life situations to pull amusing stories from. It also has a really solid grasp on tone, ensuring that even when dealing with quite serious matters the movie never strays far from its centre as a light and fluffy feel-good piece. It knows exactly what it is, what its trying to achieve and sticks to it in a way that’s admirable.
However, this is where we come to the biggest fumble of the film – the romance. Almost nothing about this paring works – the chemistry is lacking, Dianne is underdeveloped and the overall arc hits every single cliche in the freaking book. Boy fawning over girl who stays aloof? Check. Suddenly run across each other and bond over a surprise similarity? Check. Love forbidden by families? Freaking check check check. I could go on, but I’m sure whatever I list you’ve already seen before a hundred times and likely done better. And considering the romance is the entire heart of the story – its referenced in the title and all – that’s a serious issue and really drags the film down from what was a really entertaining light-hearted dramedy into something that’s unfortunately much more forgettable.
So while Ali’s Wedding has plenty going for it – great themes, a light tone and amusing writing – its hard to go past how frustratingly generic the romance is. As a Melbourne local (where this film was shot and set) and the only Australian film I’m seeing this year at MIFF its simply disappointing that I don’t have a local film to laud. Instead I just have to say I enjoyed the reception but the Wedding itself is a let-down.
General Audiences: Recommended
Film Buffs: Meh