Villa Touma marks the directorial debut of Suha Arraf, and she brings to the screen an entertaining and somewhat surprising story of love, loss, regret and forgiveness set in Ramallah.
Orphaned teenager Badia is unwanted and unloved, so her three aristocratic Christian aunts have no choice but to take her in. The three are bitter towards her and project all of their own insecurities onto the young girl. Fighting the Pygmalion transformation her aunts so determinedly try to inflict on her, Badia dreams of the love and excitement that waits beyond the gates of her cold and unwelcoming new home. Little does she know that behind closed doors the three women are harbouring secrets of their lost loves, fuelling their determination to marry her off.
Although the first half plays out in a clever and humorous fashion, the comedy is lost towards the end as the story descends into an unexpected pool of darkness. Nevertheless, where lacking – or falling flat, plot-wise – it made up for in wit and the four actresses lead the cleverly scripted film’s story with brilliantly understated acting. There were unexplained storylines that could have been expanded on, but despite seeming to be confused at which genre it wants to be, Villa Touma is a brilliant film worth watching.