Original review featured on the Doha Film Institute website.
UAE filmmaker Nawaf el Janah’si second feature draws an intimate portrait of life in the small seaside vicinity of Ras Al-Khaimah. Emirati teenager Mansoor delivers fresh juices made by his mother. He’s in love with Kaltham, the prettiest girl in the neighborhood, but has to find the means of expressing his sentiments within the restraints of local etiquette. Kaltham on the other hand, is struggling with her indifferent father who’s ignoring his family after the death of his wife.
The struggles of a young man moving to adulthood has a universal outreach. Janahi portrays it with a deep understanding of the local environment and built the narrative around it. Written by one of the most gifted UAE scriptwriters today Mohammed Hasan Ahmed, these young filmmakers are marking a new wave of cinema coming from the GCC. They are basing their work from within their culture in content and style.
“Sea Shadow” accentuates a part of the Emirates unfamiliar to the rest of the world. This film goes to the very essence of traditional Emirati families, living in homes and sometimes facing financial troubles amongst other things, just like anybody else. It creates the proper mood that helps the audience identify with its characters without drifting away from local values.
The development of characters succeeds by understanding their motives. Kaltham’s father’s reaction, as much as it is annoying, is due to prolonged grief. While Mansoor’s mother’s aggressive nature is that of a woman in charge of her family now that her husband is in a wheel chair. The consequences of their actions might turn dramatic, especially for Kaltham.
The films follows a nice rhythm all the way to its conclusion, but misses at times the climaxes needed to close certain scenes. As much as the events are crucial, the thrill is sometimes lacking.
Al-Janahi succeeds in this initiative to portray the complexities of growing up in the Emirates.