The Blue Caftan

Rating :   ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 

Categorisation: Drama

Availability: At theatres, Arabic with subtitles

Storyline: Created by Moroccan film maker, Maryam Touzani, this gently affecting film tells the story of three people. Mina and her husband Halim have a store in an historical town in northwestern Morocco where they sell exquisitely crafted traditional caftans. Halim is a master tailor (maalem) who works long hours creating hand-made garments that his wife sells in the shop. Halim is way behind in his work, and his customers are frustrated. One suggests that they get a sewing machine as nobody can tell the difference between machine- and hand-made clothes these days. Mina gives as much as she gets but still pushes Halim along. They need to quicken their pace if the business is to survive. They employ an apprentice, Youssef, who seems to appreciate the finer aspects of the traditional craft. But Mina is suspicious of him, particularly when she notices that Halim’s interest in Youssef extends beyond the professional.

Film-craft: Despite its sparse dialogue, there is a rich communication of emotion in The Blue Caftan. Touzani uses furtive looks, glimpses of sadness and expressions of longing to slow the pace and intensify our concern for the characters. The film is unfailingly sensuous – hands caressing fine silks, the rituals of the working day, Halim’s bathing in the local bathhouse, all beautifully filmed by Virgine Surdej, who brings together the shop’s earthy colours and the splendid fabrics in a cinematic master class. 

Cast: The Blue Caftan’s three main characters are terrific. Saleh Bakri brings an impressively nuanced performance to the role of the repressed Halim who is anguished by his desires. Lubna Azabal as Mina brings a lively complexity as she flatters and reprimands their clients. Complementing Bakri and Azabal, Ayoub Missioui is excellent as Youssef who finds that he must carefully negotiate a complex set of dynamics as relationships are threatened and their interdependent lives begin to change.

Personal CommentsThe Blue Caftan is a deeply intimate film that gently explores the nature of  love and affection between people. But you will need a fair degree of patience if you are to enjoy it. It is languid but with a surprisingly gripping tension between the characters that in the end is captivating. It was short-listed in the International Feature Film category of the Oscars, but sadly got no further.


Rating :   ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ + ½

Categorisation: Thriller

Availability: Acorn

Storyline: Will Travers is a successful high-flying barrister, Oxford educated and handsome to boot. Happily married to his smart and beautiful wife Jane, they appear to be the ideal family. But as we often find, ideal families are hard to come by in crime dramas and soon it becomes clear that Will has more than a few skeletons rattling around in his closet. Well known in London for his brilliance in defending people accused of murder, Will’s experiences have nevertheless taken a psychological toll on him. And so they relocate to Ipswich, Jane’s home town, where Will now runs rings around the local police, exposing their corrupt practices and consequently humiliating them in the eyes of the law. In the meantime, a local murder occurs in an isolated cottage on the outskirts of Ipswich and, when it turns out that the victim is an old client of Will’s, the despicable Detective Inspector Mark Wenborn sets his hostile sights on the troublesome barrister. As Will’s emotional state deteriorates and his flashbacks and hallucinations become increasingly concerning, his past and present collide when he is compelled to defend an old friend in London who is accused of murder. 

Film-craft: Released in 2011, this gripping five-part drama has the stamp of a quality production. The cinematography is excellent, and there are some wonderful scenes. One that deserves particular mention is the view of the idyllic countryside zooming towards the derelict cottage where the death of the reclusive tenant has taken place. Created and written by Anthony Horowitz, the screenplay is sharp, purposefully illustrating the chasm between the views of liberal progressives (i.e. the readers of The Guardian), and the views of people in the ‘real world’  (i.e. the obnoxious local police). This division is laid on rather too thickly, and the flashback and hallucinatory elements are not as successful as they might be. But overall the pace is good and tension is well maintained. 

Cast: Injustice has a stellar cast. James Purefoy is terrific as Will, the confident yet vulnerable barrister who finds himself in the middle of everything. Irish actor Dervla Kirwin is also impressive as Jane his protective ex-publisher wife, who spends her time running a reading group for local young offenders in residence. Charlie Creed-Miles effectively plays the vile and morally barren DI Mark Wenborn. Single-handedly (well almost so – his boss is almost as unscrupulous) his repugnant behaviour manages to have us siding with every criminal he brushes up against. DI Wenborn gets a result by fair means or foul, and it’s usually the latter. 

Personal Comments: Despite a few surprising flaws in the plot, Injustice is eminently watchable, and while the early episodes tend to be stronger than the later ones, the series is engaging enough to keep the audience watching.