When Maryam (Mila Al Zahrani), a hardworking young doctor in a small-town clinic, is prevented from flying to Dubai for a conference without a male guardian’s approval, she seeks help from a politically connected cousin — but inadvertently registers as a candidate for the municipal council. Maryam sees the election as a way to fix the muddy road in front of her clinic, but her campaign slowly garners broader appeal.
A challenge to Saudi patriarchy, THE PERFECT CANDIDATE is an amusing but biting reflection on women in a society that systematically marginalizes them. Al Mansour finds an inadvertent heroine in Maryam, who learns to run a campaign from a web article and creatively navigates a restriction barring her from addressing male voters directly. With spirit and authenticity, the film offers a rare glimpse into a still-obscure society.
“Fiery and headstrong, and instantly gets you on its side.” —Xan Brooks, Guardian “This is nothing if not a movie of its time, and it sings — sometimes literally — whenever it hones in on the unique struggle through which Saudi Arabian women might seize upon this historic moment…. As brave and humble as its heroine, one that gently threads the needle between a realistic today and a better tomorrow.” —David Ehrlich, IndieWire “Saudi Arabia’s first female director, Haifaa Al Mansour (WADJDA), deploys sly charm and winning humour as she tackles her country’s endemic sexism in this surprisingly feelgood tale.” —Jason Best, Marie Claire