Review – The Blue Caftan

If ever there was a movie that felt like a poem, The Blue Caftan is it. It’s a feeling captured in the moments creating this very elegant blue caftan. It’s a love letter to yourself. It’s a poem to all those before and all those after you, to know love is in many things, many people and most of all yourself.

The Blue Caftan follows Halim (Saleh Bakri), a traditional tailor. His craft and skill are still managed by hand and the idea of a machine is an insult to what he does. His loving wife Mina (Lubna Azabel) helps manage his store bringing in business and maintaining the manay fabrics on offer.

With the many customers coming in we discover Halim is behind in his orders. They hire an apprentice, Youssef (Ayoub Missioui), to help with the workload. His skills are minimal but his work ethic are exactly what Halim needs.

It’s a professional workshop. All work and very little talk. Any attempts Youssef tries to talk to Halim are kept short and minimal. That isn’t to say Halim doesn’t take a keen and sometimes personal interest in helping Youssef with his tasks. And when their two eyes meet we realise there is something more at play here than meets the eye.

Despite all the love Halim has for Mina, he is also holding a secret he has tried to push down for what feels like his entire life. He goes to the hammams to bathe and also finds intimate relations with another man. He returns home and carries on with his life as if it never happened.

Mina notices there is something awry when she catches Halim admiring Youssef from a distance. It seems Mina might have always had her suspicions.

What makes this story hard to handle is the fact Mina is battling the return of cancer. And with little to be done, she attempts to make the most of her time left with Halim. At the same time, her relationship builds with Youssef as he helps with the store in the last weeks of her life. But she also comes to understand and accept Halim’s secret.

The entire film is made to feel intimate with Halim and his secret, but also the intimacy of his art as he creates his most prized piece of work, the blue caftan. The camera uses close-ups of Halim’s blue eyes as he works away, sometimes catching a glance of Youssef. The audience follows the minute detail through the camera as it zooms in on Halim’s hands and the intricate stitching works he does.

It’s a simple story. For the most part, the audience doesn’t experience anywhere but Mina and Halim’s apartment or the walk to their store where most of the movie is spent.

The film is built on relationships between the three characters and the challenges a lifetime of secrets can bring. But it never makes the situation seem hateful or hurtful. There is a great deal of understanding and forgiveness between the characters.

Halim is played by Saleh Bakri. The casting of Bakri would not have been easy as the character needs to deliver his entire character mostly through body language, facial expressions and overall mood. He doesn’t have a lot of lines but manages to demand your attention through his blue eyes.

The film is full of symbolism. The blue caftan itself is one of them. Building something not only beautiful but from scratch. Making every small part perfect through slow and steady craftsmanship. It represents Halim as a blank canvas building himself to the intricate, beautiful life he has. And only when the time is right can he debut his true complete self.

The Blue Caftan is as beautiful and delicate a movie as the caftan itself. The camera pulls the viewer in close to an intimacy with the character and the clothing they make. The story is simple, but it holds so much. As with all the sadness, there is some happiness that comes from it. It will certainly make you feel a connection to the film and characters you wouldn’t expect.

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If ever there was a movie that felt like a poem, The Blue Caftan is it. It's a feeling captured in the moments creating this very elegant blue caftan. It's a love letter to yourself. It's a poem to all those before and all...Review - The Blue Caftan