When Time Becomes a Woman

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 02/16/13 16:28:45

"When some neat ideas become a lot of talk."
3 stars (Average)

SCREENED AT THE 2013 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FEST: I'm guessing that there's not a whole lot of money for science fiction filmmaking in Jordan, which is why "When Time Becomes a Woman" not only feels less like a movie than a one-act play, but also has everybody in the cast and crew pulling triple- or quadruple-duty behind the scenes. So, adjust expectations accordingly, perhaps - odds are it won't blow your mind but it may be an interestingly different experience.

A man (Zaid Baqaeen) and a woman (Najwan Baqaeen) meet in a thin strip of land between the mountains and the water, with the man saying he has searched for her for three years, and he needs for her to return with him or the world will end. She's skeptical, wanting more information, especially once he claims to be Zad, a great revolutionary that she has read much about.

Now, if these two were sensible people who answered reasonable questions when asked rather than offering up a question of their own in philosophical opposition to the other's supposed meaning, this might be a ten or fifteen minute movie, rather than one that runs seventy-three (including leisurely credit roll). After all, Zad wants something, she wants a reason why she should, so communicate some information, already. Have a spirited debate on the ethics of the situation! These games may superficially make the movie sound intellectual, but at times the circles they run in can get frustrating.

Writers Ahmad & Rana Alyaseer don't have a whole lot more than words at their disposal, but once they start to put the killing time behind them, they manage to pack a lot into the story. When Time Becomes a Woman's backstory pokes its nose into a lot of science fictional corners, giving some interesting scope and shape to its world as the two players describe their lives up to that point. The Alyaseers manage to refer to the concerns of their region without mentioning specific countries, and Zad is put across as a much more self-deluded figure than characters described as "revolutionary" rather than "terrorist"often are.

The portrayals of the pair are fairly good, although for technical reasons nobody can quite get full credit. The Baqaeens establish their characters well enough; the looks of suspicion, admiration, and distaste that cross the woman's face show just how well Najwan Baqaeen can convey emotion and how the character re-evaluates herself and her history, while Zaid Baqaeen conveys a very believable smug certainty. It's not their voices on the soundtrack, though; no sound was recorded on the set,so the Alyaseers dub the dialogue. It matches well enough for those of us who are reading subtitles anyway, although there is something a bit forced about the way the woman laughs.

I half-wonder if overdubbing the entire soundtrack is why the movie occasionally has some weird cinematography, with the camera sometimes not just pointing at the back of characters but just showing a rock while people are talking. Could they just not get the ADR right for those lines, was it new dialogue the Alyaseers came up with after the shoot, is it deliberate, or is really hard for cinematographer Zaid Baqaeen to be both behind and in front of the camera at once? Or is it deliberate, an attempted artistic flourish that winds up looking weird? The filmmakers have at least chosen a beautiful location on the Dead Sea and captured it impressively.

The striking look of the picture should count for something; director Ahmad Alyaseer and the rest of the cast/crew get some impressive results out of their shoestring, even if parts are more stage-y than one might like.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.