Once again, I find myself in the enviable (and also difficult) position of being offered an advance viewing of a movie that I hadn't heard anything about beforehand. This time the email was sent to me by Ahmad Alyaseer (director and co-writer, with Rana Alyaseer, of the film). Ahmad told me that this movie was "the first Sci-Fi feature film from Jordan and probably the Middle East." I have no reason to doubt him, but my own knowledge of Middle Eastern cinema is very limited so I will state here and now that anyone who knows different is more than welcome to comment here and provide some more information. What is definitely beyond doubt is the fact that the movie has already been selected for a number of festivals, including the 38th Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival and the Pollygrind Film Festival (where it won an award for best cinematography).
So let's get to the film itself. What is it about? Well, it's a conversation between two people, for the most part. A conversation about identity and responsibility and belief and ego and much more. The film takes place in the future, but there are no visual clues as everything is related via the scripted dialogue spoken by Najwan Baqaeen and Zaid Baqaeen. That's it. Two people talking on a beach for 70 minutes. During that conversation, details are revealed about the state of the planet and some major problem that needs to be fixed. That particular strand works well, it's just a shame that the rest of the script can't match it.
When Ahmad Alyaseer contacted me I replied with my usual proviso: "I'd love to review the movie and hope to enjoy it, but I can't guarantee that it will get a positive review." That's my standard reply now because I genuinely DO appreciate being offered the chance to see any new movies and genuinely always hope to enjoy them. It's mutually beneficial. The filmmakers get a good review and my review gets spread around a bit more. Sadly, it doesn't always work that way and I end up feeling like someone who has been invited for a nice meal and then thrown up during the main course.
When Time Becomes A Woman has a number of elements that could be made into something very good, but it suffers from a lack of budget/scope/vision. Alyaseer does enough to make people forget that this is his feature debut, which is something to be proud of, but he doesn't do enough to take the ideas that he has and make them into a fine, low-key sci-fi movie along the lines of Primer or The Man From Earth, for example. Sci-fi movies don't need lots of money and CGI thrown at them as long as they have interesting ideas. This movie has a couple of decent moments, but they don't make up for the lack of activity in the rest of the movie and the circular, repetitive dialogue that may or may not be the result of something lost in translation.
Najwan Baqaeen and Zaid Baqaeen are fine in their roles and they need to be. If this movie starred the wrong two people then it would have been unwatchable. It's tough going as it is and bad acting would have been the final nail in the coffin. Najwan and Zaid aren't great, but they do enough to get by.
I know that I'm sounding very negative here and I feel bad about that because the film looks comparable to, and even better than, many movies made with a much bigger budget. I'm not sure of what the exact budget for this was, but it's listed on IMDb as approximately $5,000 and I'll go along with that for now. What Alyaseer has done with that $5,000 certainly shows that the man has potential to do something memorable with more money and resources at his disposal.
As a movie, it just didn't really work for me (sorry Ahmad), but as an example of a starting point for the technical quality that can be achieved with little money and a crew of about five people all taking on a variety of roles it does quite well.
When Time Becomes A Woman is currently doing the festival rounds so you may get a chance to catch it at a cinema near you if you keep your eyes peeled.