After years abroad, a woman (Golshifteh Farahani) returns to Tunis with the dream of opening up her own psychotherapy practice, in Manele Labidi’s charming feature debut.
Contemporary World Cinema
After 10 years of living in Paris, Selma (Golshifteh Farahani) has returned to Tunis. Back home, her younger cousin can't figure out why she'd leave the French capital, her aunt is overbearing, and her uncle is only giving her a matter of weeks to crash in the apartment above their house. Selma, nonetheless, is steadfast in her resolve: she wants to open up a psychotherapy practice. So begins the first feature directed and written by Manele Labidi, an incisive comedy about coming home, breaking taboos, and building community.
As Selma tries to settle in, she's faced with increasing complications that she — or her guiding patron Sigmund Freud — couldn't have predicted. There isn't just the matter of finding interested psychotherapy patients in a locale that's not keen on the talking cure, but she also needs to navigate a confusing bureaucratic circus in order to get the right papers to run her practice. On top of all that, a strapping — albeit unbending — cop, Naim (Majd Mastoura), is keeping a close eye on her every move.
Farahani (seen at the Festival in 2016 in Jim Jarmusch's Paterson and who's worked with greats like Asghar Farhadi) gives a powerful and compelling performance. She hits all the comic beats and deftly inhabits a character, who, above all, wants to do what's right. Arab Blues develops with an irresistible charm while not sidestepping bigger questions about both a country and a woman at a crossroads.