At The Movies: The Blue Caftan

Halim and Mina run a small traditional caftan store in Morocco – a store that was passed down to Halim by his father. They take on a talented young apprentice, Youssef, to keep up with the demands of their customers. The customers are putting pressure on for their caftan to made faster. When one customer complains and asks why they don’t use a sewing machine as it is much faster and it is hard to tell the difference, Mina sticks up for her husband saying “he is a maalem, not a machine”. He meticulously handcrafts the caftans, making his own threads and they truly are a work of art!

The blue caftan has been paid for and the stitching of the embroidery is exquisite. Halim is very quiet and doesn’t like to create a fuss. He goes to the local baths to unwind and get away from everything – and also has some secret liaisons with another regular attendee! It becomes evident that he is captivated by the handsome new apprentice – something that Mina also notices.

Mina cannot find a piece of pink material that she had asked Youssef to fold a few days earlier. Her tone when asking the young man shows that she is accusing him of stealing, which he denies. We soon learn that Mina has severe health issues, when Halim finds her collapsed on the floor in their apartment. It is also clear that this is not something new. Halim stays home to care for her despite Mina urging him to go to the store and finish their customers’ garments.

Youssef unexpectedly brings the blue caftan to their home so that Halim can work on it. A new bond develops between the three of them and the love and devotion Halim has for his wife is quite deep.

There are moments where a complimentary comment is made be Youssef to Halim, such as how proud the latter’s father would be to see Halim’s craft, which Halim never replies to. Sometimes the silence and the looks say more than words could. You will need to go to the cinema to see how the intricate relationships work out in the long run!

This is a very moving film with some beautifully filmed scenes. My only complaint is, that with a fairly limited story line, two hours was way too long. It could have been about thirty minutes shorter without detracting from anything. Despite this, it is a good movie … just too long!

Movie Review By John Glennie

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