It’s only the best Aussie comedy since The Castle, that’s all.
DIRECTOR Jeffrey Walker
CAST Osamah Sami, Don Hany, Helana Sawires, Rodney Afif, Robert Rabiah, Rodney Afif
PLOT After faking his HSC results to impress father Mahdi (Hany), a Muslim cleric, Ali (Sami) sets off a chain of lies that includes studying medicine at uni and beginning a secret romance — despite an impending arranged marriage.
AUSTRALIAN CINEMAGOERS, it’s time to check your prejudices at the door (possibly in more ways than one). Although our attitude over the years towards homegrown films has unfortunately steered toward wary scepticism — sometimes even open hostility — it’s no reason to dismiss every Aussie film that sees release. And Ali’s Wedding — hands down one of the greatest Australian films to come along in years and a romcom that pulls off the increasingly rare trick of being both hilariously funny and genuinely moving — deserves not just your attention, but swathes of it that will reward its brilliance with abundant box office success.
Incredibly, the film — which is packed with almost too far-fetched to believe incidents — is based on true events from the life of Australian actor/writer/comedian Osamah Sami, who co-wrote the Awgie-winning screenplay with venerable Australian screenwriter Andrew
Knight (Hacksaw Ridge, Rake, Jack Irish, Full Frontal, Fast Forward and The D Generation). Together the pair have crafted a script that hits all the familiar romcom beats, but in the most rewarding and refreshing way possible — the film has such a big, awkward, warm beating heart that you can’t help but leave the cinema with a goofy smile plastered across your mug (and likely a tear or two in the corner of your eye). It’s a humble film that feels like a small miracle.
The story revolves around young Ali (Sami), the son of a highly respected, kind and well-liked Muslim cleric who only wants to live up to his dad’s expectations and escape his lofty shadow. This manifests itself as lying about his HSC results to make it appear as though he has the grades to get into medical school, which he goes ahead and studies at regardless of the fact he’s not even enrolled. Appearing to be on his way to becoming a successful doctor, Ali’s standing and eligibility within the Muslim community skyrockets, and soon he finds himself embroiled in an arranged marriage with Yomna (Maha Wilson), the daughter of Haj Karim (Afif), one of Mahdi’s most fervent followers. Further complicating matters is Ali’s attraction to fellow Muslim and (legit) medical student Dianne (a wonderfully witty Helana Sawires), who Ali convinces to marry him (a six-week marriage, it should be said, due to a supposed loophole Ali discovers in Islamic law). Things obviously begin to unravel for the sweet and hapless Ali, but not before his complex list of problems escalate.
Despite the many laugh out loud moments — Ali playing the lead in the elaborate stage play Saddam: The Musical; Ali expressing his optimism at finding acting work by sunnily stating “They always need us to play terrorists!” — there are touching moments between Ali and his father Mahdi, and moments of heartbreak and tragedy that are treated with sensitivity. The depiction of the Muslim community in the film is also one of the film’s great accomplishments: although a group that have been demonised and routinely presented negatively in the media, the film opens the door and exposes the quirks, humanity and commonalities that are present but rarely touched upon in public forums. It’s a much-needed fresh perspective, and one that is handled with great love and affection — an accolade that can be applied to this triumphant film as a whole.
VERDICT Quite simply, Ali’s Wedding is the best Aussie comedy since The Castle. Full of heart, wit and great performances, it’s an incredible achievement and a credit to all involved.