Narrow Frame of Midnight

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Dir: Tala Hadid

The plot to Tala Hadid’s captivating The Narrow Frame of Midnight reads like a set-up for a gripping thriller and, in a sense, it is. Only it’s a thriller told at a pace which wisely allows the viewer time to reflect on what they see and what the wider social and moral implications could be.

Khalid Abdalla of United 93 and The Kite Runner fame plays Zacaria, a half-Moroccan, half-Iraqi, England-born writer. He journeys to Morocco to search for his missing brother, who may have travelled to Iraq. By chance, he comes across Aicha, a resilient young orphan who has been taken from the Atlas Mountains by two criminals and is being transported to her buyer. Aicha asks Zacaria to rescue her and he quickly agrees.


Hadid seems more interested in conveying how the incomprehensible suffering of the past and present are constantly weighing on the characters’ minds and souls than in filming suspenseful set pieces. In fact, the weakest scenes of the film tend to be among those involving the closest thing it has to a main villain – Hocine Choutri’s monstrous kidnapper Abbas is well performed but a little flatly drawn for a film that otherwise so affectingly observes the psychological side of things. Such moments however tend to only be short-lived breaks in the mesmerising spell Hadid casts.

A sizeable amount of the film is given over to beautifully shot, unnervingly quiet footage of nature but Hadid’s low key, contemplative approach never wears out its welcome (I’d even be interested in seeing Hadid apply her thoughtful methods to a film with a more ambitious running time). Not all of the strands of the plot are tied together neatly with a sense of closure by the end and the film is all the better for it.


The Narrow Frame of Midnight is, in part, about elusive truths and lingering emotions. In denying her characters a complete picture of the events that unfold, Hadid allows the world they inhabit to be as big and mysterious as our own. These are people you can imagine living their lives long before and after the 90 minutes you spend with them.

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