After 10 years in Paris, Selma (Golshifteh Farahani) has returned to Tunis. Her younger cousin can’t figure out why she’d leave the French capital: her aunt is overbearing, and her uncle only gives her a few weeks rent-free in the apartment above his house. But Selma is steadfast: she wants to open up a psychotherapy practice. So begins the first feature directed and written by Manele Labidi, an incisive comedy about coming home, breaking taboos, and building community.
As Selma tries to settle in, she’s faced with increasing complications. It isn’t just a matter of finding patients in a place where few people are keen on talk therapy; there’s also a confusing bureaucratic circus to navigate, and a cop, Naim (Majd Mastoura), keeping a close eye on her every move. Farahani (who has worked with greats like Asghar Farhadi and Jim Jarmusch) hits all the comic beats while inhabiting a character who, above all, wants to do what’s right. Arab Blues has an irresistible charm while not sidestepping bigger questions about both a country and a woman at a crossroads.
Official Selection, 2019 Toronto International Film Festival