The sophomore directorial debut of Eli King is certainly a brazen choice of both subject and execution of subject. There are very few English spoken films that focus on the religious books of Islam. Specifically, films relating stories from the Quran and I believe this is one of the first, if not the first film to focus on Fatima who is the daughter of Muhammad. The film switches between timelines focusing between Fatima and modern day Islam. The latter shows the struggles that Muslims face in today’s political and social climate affecting many nations.
The Lady of Heaven is not afraid to say what it is set out to articulate and makes no intention of hiding its message. The film focuses on bringing a light on the importance of females in Islamic tradition, despite the religion usually relegating the female lead in the sidelines. Fatima never makes an appearance in the film herself, but her message is conveyed through other speakers. ISIS soldiers attack Laith (Gabriel Cartade) and his mother. This causes Laith to want a different life that the current life he lives. He does this with the help of Raed (Oscar Salem). Raed helps the boy escape the clutches of ISIS and brings him home. He introduces Laith to his mother, Bibi (Denise Black) who tells Laith the story of Fatima.
What works in The Lady of Heaven is the cinematography and the direction of the film. Everything shot looks beautiful and is awe inspiring in its cinematography. The direction highlights the importance of different perspectives. It also highlights the ability to have change even when it seems doubtful and there are large uproars about changing something to this extent. However, the performances and storytelling is where the movie lacks its conviction.
The main message that screenwriter Sheikh Al-Habib is trying to convey about the story of Fatima and what she can do for the modern Muslim woman is one of hope and change. But it muddles that message in the story that highlights violence and gore more than it should. Even with their performances, the cast’s performances don’t have that opportunity to break free and shine through at any point. This makes the film’s message that much harder to separate from the rich cinematography that makes this film something majestic to see but not experience.
The Lady of Heaven focuses too heavily on the cinematography and violence that it loses the message of what it is trying to say. There’s too much going on, and there are thousands of years between the two interweaving stories. This will make audiences feel lost in the chaos that unfolds on the screen.
- Release Date: 4/29/2022