PFF25: Hedi

Hedi, a Tunisian drama directed by Mohamed Ben Attia, captures a brief episode of a car salesman, Hedi, who finally decides to make his own decisions. Hedi is used to constantly taking orders from his mother and having every bit of his life being dictated by her. Within this drama, we watch Hedi on the verge of being married off to Khedija (Omnia Ben Ghali) by his mother. As part of Tunisian culture, Hedi and Khedija are in a pre-arranged marriage. The two barely know each other beyond first names and short “I miss you” SMS messages.

Director Attia creates a very unique character through Hedi (Majd Mastoura). In the beginning of the film, Hedi shows little to no emotion. He displays a very calm, solemn demeanor. We watch him go through the daily motions of traveling from one place to another and hopelessly handing out his business card. The film gives off a very simple aesthetic that builds on the apathetic, and reserved person that Hedi is supposed to be. Neutral colors and barren scenery often fill the screen. Hedi drives around in places that seem to be in the middle of nowhere. Although this is a drama, there is a lack of sharp emotions and intense actions that would normally be expected in an American film. This was an aspect of Hedi I did not appreciate until after the film. Initially I was constantly wanting for something grander to happen, but the film’s calm tone made everything look so natural and realistic.

Attia incorporates a lot of car scenes where the viewer is given a first-hand view of Tunisia. The characters were sincere. The setting , although boring, was realistic of what a traveling car salesman in Tunis would experience. I felt like I was literally following a snippet of Heidi's life. I also loved how despite having a serious message and tone, this film managed to naturally weave humor into the plot. In one scene, we have Hedi arguing with his mother about how miserable she’s made him then suddenly we see Hedi on the beach with sand boobs.

Now let’s get to the good stuff: Rym and Hedi’s love story. Hedi meets Rym (Rym Ben Messaoud) at a tourist site during a business trip to Mahdia. Coincidentally, this happens to be during the same week of his wedding ceremony. Hedi’s relationship with Rym is significant in that this is the first time we see Hedi being close and intimate with someone. Rym sparks up Hedi’s life. She is sociable, energetic and always ready to go on spontaneous adventures with Hedi. This is a big jump from the silent car scenes where Hedi and Khedija only interact through brief conversations. We see Hedi develop a person through his interaction with Hedi. Hedi’s conversations with Rym are the only times we really see him smile throughout the film. Hedi and Rym’s love story finally blossoms when Hedi confesses that he’s engaged but decides to drop everything to travel with Rym. He even skips his wedding ceremony to spend the day with Rym. Although their relationship may sound cliche, the couple had a very natural and unpredictable relationship that keeps you wanting to follow the two throughout the film.

A day later, I’m still pretty hung up over how this movie ended. It’s clear that the movie is about Hedi’s journey to find himself and become his own person but the film leaves its audience with too many unanswered questions. We end with Hedi and Rym at the airport where they are supposed to leave Tunis together. I do not want to spoil this brilliant movie too much but as a viewer, aside from this sudden and abrupt ending, I was very surprised to see the decision Hedi made. Essentially, this is a film that may have to be viewed more than once to understand its message, but every minute it worth it.

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