Review: A rare glimpse at the indoor lives of Saudi women

“All politics are local,” the saying goes.

Al-Mansour gained worldwide acclaim in 2012 with “Wadjda,” about a young Saudi girl aiming to own a bicycle.

Nearly a decade later, “The Perfect Candidate” does much the same.

It’s no accident that the very first scene introduces our main character, Maryam, as she drives her own car to work.

And that muddy dirt road in front of her clinic is an obstacle: Stretchers carrying ill patients routinely get stuck in the mud.

Worse, the clinic’s male administrator sides with the patient, ordering her to let male nurses take her place.

At home, where she lives with her recently widowed musician father and two sisters, Maryam obtains her father’s approval, as required by law, to travel to Dubai for a conference.

Since her father has left on tour with his band, Maryam has to track down a male cousin, a local official, to do the honors.

In her first campaign video, to avoid anger from conservative elements, she covers her face entirely, even her eyes.

Even Maryam’s two sisters at first try to talk her out of it — they’re afraid ridicule will follow, as it followed their late mother in her public career as a singer.

The film, at a slowly paced 104 minutes, follows two narrative tracks, both of which involve social and cultural struggles in the kingdom.

As for the script, it turns obvious at several points.

But most of the value in this film comes from the peek it gives us into life as a Saudi woman — a life that is changing, Al-Mansour points out, albeit too slowly for some.

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