Review: Three Veils
Three Veils is an impressive story told from the points of view of three Muslim American women.
We meet the women, Leila (Mercedes Masohn), Amira (Angela Zahra) and Nikki (Sheetal Sheth) first from Leila’s perspective.
The film begins with Leila’s (Mercedes Masohn) story as she celebrates her arranged engagement and fantasises about what her first time will be like with her handsome and wealthy husband-to-be. Her best friend is the rebellious Nikki (Sheetal Sheth) and Syrian TV star Angela Zahra plays Leila’s nerdy and socially awkward classmate Amira.
A triptych story can be awkward in film, structurally. But Three Veils manages to hold our attention by making each woman’s story sharpen and deepen the overall emotional impact.
We begin with Leila’s story. Leila is double-take gorgeous, and the actress did start her career as a model. Leila is from a wealthy, traditional family and is engaged to a handsome, wealthy and traditional man chosen for her by her family. She’s a reserved person, but she muses in a voice-over about what her first time might be like. She may be happy with an arranged marriage, but she makes it clear she’s looking forward to consummating her marriage.
Amira’s story is next and begins with “I have always felt left out.” We see her version of events and while it seemed right to laugh at Amira’s role in Leila’s story, suddenly we understand that her role is less funny than we’d imagined. Amira is a devoutly religious woman but this faithfulness is contrasted with the speech about religion given by Leila’s fiancé in the first story.
When we meet Nikki in Leila’s story first, she’s a simple “bad influence” best friend character. She’s wild and fun, drinking alcohol in the middle of the school day and sometimes being inappropriate in ways that make Leila’s parents dislike her. And we sort of understand that, because her actions seem inappropriate. We meet a less exciting version of Nikki in Amira’s story as we follow the friendship the two women develop, which isn’t, you know, 100% healthy for either of them. And Nikki once again meets our disapproval, seeming to disrespect Amira’s faith while relying on Amira to rescue her when she’s too drunk to go home.
Nikki’s story is ultimately the final word in what happened. She fills in the blanks of how things ended and what happened in the moments neither of the other girls knew anything about. We see her childhood — a poor Muslim kid growing up in America but at the mercy of wealthy relatives. Contrary to Amira’s appraisal of Nikki’s questions about faith, we her connection to faith is not inconsequential.
Three Veils works best as a character study in three parts. The script can be heavy handed, and at times it doesn’t even make sense. (There is a moment when Leila immediately recognises someone she’d met earlier in the day, and then says, “I didn’t recognise you…”). Fortunately, the acting and the story are compelling enough to more than compensate.
Overall, it’s delightful and surprising storytelling, fantastic acting and stories about characters we may not have met before. I really recommend giving this one a chance.
Peccadillo Pictures are releasing Three Veils on DVD July 30, 2012.