BEST OF THE FEST (cont.)
3. As I Open My Eyes
A young woman coming of age, torn between the expectations of her parents and the passions in her heart, isn’t exactly an untold story. What makes this telling unique, and gives it far higher stakes, is the story’s setting in Tunis, circa summer 2010 – where such a young woman has decidedly less of a say, and singing her protest songs about that time and place puts her in actual danger. Director Leyla Bouzid is keenly observant; she understands the scariness of exerting one’s independence, and mirrors that internal conflict with those of her protagonist’s band and the pressures that may tear them apart. Heartfelt, moving, and more than a little scary.
Deb Shoval co-writes and directs this sweet, tentative romance, in which an aimless small-town girl (Lola Kirke) on her way into the army falls for a married mother (Breeda Wool), prompting a struggle between how they feel and who they have to be. Shoval and her marvelous leads put across both the intensity of this attraction and the tension it causes; Shoval and cinematographer Gal Deren have a good eye for the tiny, dirt-on-the-ground details that lend the film an almost documentary authenticity. Some of that is betrayed in a middle stretch where you can start to feel the plot machinery grinding, and there are sideways moments here and there that don’t go anywhere. But it’s an authentic and emotional film, with first-rate turns by Wool and especially Kirke; hers is a wonderfully open, heart-on-her-sleeve turn, and the film plays in much the same spirit.