Montréal Girls 2023 Movie Review
For well over twenty years, writer/director/producer and in-general impresario Patricia Chica (she also has her own PR firm!) has been hard at work bringing her vision to the screen, whether it be in short films, music videos or TV documentaries. She has worked in many facets of production including casting, editing, cinematography and music, but what has eluded Chica until now was helming a narrative feature film. She had opportunities but refused to settle on just anything. She wanted something that called out to her and her fellow artists. Finally, she found it with her second collaboration with Kamal John Iskander, Montréal Girls.
The tale involves a young Middle-Eastern man, Ramy (Hakim Brahimi), who arrives in Montréal with all the good intentions of fulfilling his dying mother’s wish for him to attend medical school and become a doctor. Yet, the city brings out emotions in him he never quite felt before. The sheltered introvert finds himself enraptured in the bohemian lifestyle he encounters: his punk rock cousin extolling the music of the past, poets pouring their hearts and soul out in small coffee shops and parks, artists living with no cares and women who appear to not have any boundaries.
He’s taken aback by the whole scene and tempted by a lifestyle he knew nothing about. Ramy likes it, but he has no idea how to maneuver around it. Then, Ramy finds himself immediately grounded, returning to his uncle’s place where he is staying while attending school. The classes and the curriculum signify stability and a promise kept to a mother that meant a great deal to him. His uncle’s talks also are an attempt to keep Ramy’s feet firmly on the ground.
But, Ramy is lured by not only his cousin Tamer (Jade Hassouné) who just wants him to have a good time, he is also enchanted by two of Tamer’s female friends, Yaz (Sana Asad) and Desiree (Jasmina Parent). Nearly all the women at the bar are tempting, but these particular two young women are a whole other breed. Yaz is a dark, Middle-Eastern temptress that loves a good game while the blonde Desiree is playful, funky and more down-to-earth. To make matters worse, the two find Ramy’s innocence rather fun and invite him into Desiree’s place.
In Montréal Girls, Patricia Chica knows how to turn on the heat without gratuitous nudity. Ramy’s night with these girls is both sensuous and erotic. Even though it gets interrupted inconveniently, it’s a night he will never forget. At that moment he sets his sights on Yaz while looking at Desiree as more of a friend. This is also the beginning of Ramy questioning his path in life. He has secretly yearned to be like the poets he has seen, but deathbed promises, family and cultural expectations are crushing his soul.
Chica has developed a sonnet of a film with Montréal Girls that cries out to the heart of every artist that faces the naysayers that try to hinder their voice. Her imagery captures the light and darkness that swirls around many creators and their creations and the delightful soundtrack is very attuned to it all.
Chica and Iskander’s script comes off at first as more of a lark, but as it continues on the subject matter, it becomes deeper and far richer with the dialogue while Ramy searches within himself and discovers who he feels more comfortable being. Chica and Iskander not only take us on the journey of a would-be artist, but they also give us a peak at the posers that are not what they claim to be and an eye-opening moment of one woman’s true fight for independence at whatever the cost.
As capable as the cast is, there are standouts. Jade Hassouné as Tamer, Ramy’s punk rock cousin is wonderfully wild and is pure joy to watch as he laments about what has happened to the music he’s loved in the past. Just his ideas on life, in general, are funny and melancholy at the same time. Sana Asad as Yaz can play intensely sexy as easily as she can be ferociously independent while her counterpart Desiree, played by Jasmina Parent, is sexy as well as coy and beautifully earthy. They are matched well together. They come across like good friends who have had their ups and downs and don’t always agree unless it’s involving a good time.
Hakim Brahimi as Ramy has the biggest challenge as the lead, Ramy, with so many colorful characters around him. His is the most demanding role, playing a sheltered introvert with many inward struggles. It’s not an easy task, yet Brahimi gives it his best shot for only his second acting job in film. His struggle and the final outcome feel as real as they can get. This is in large part due to Chica’s lyrical directing that will grasp the heart of many an artist that are looking to break free from the chains of ordinary life.
After all, that’s what Montréal Girls is all about, ripping away presumptions, tearing down expectations, rebuilding one’s self from the ground up, and having the faith in one’s self when nobody else does. With all that going on it is not a melancholy or romantic film by any means, but it is a film about love that will move many hearts and souls. Like La La Land, it is about creative people that are very ambitious which will cause many to embrace the film. In the end, filmmaker Patricia Chica has created a ballad for the dreamers out there and reassures them it’s okay to be yourself.