Through the eyes of our 12-year-old protagonist (Waad Mohammed), we witness some of the gender inequalities that an outsider may expect of Saudi Arabia. Uncompromising gender double standards are enforced at Wadjda’s school by a headmistress who sees sin everywhere; her mother commutes to work with a verbally abusive driver as she, as a woman, cannot drive; and when her father does stop by, he is preoccupied with plans for a second wife. Saving up for her dream bike, Wadjda’s obstacles are far from just financial. Much less race the boys, she should not even be riding in case a fall compromises her virginity. Yet the film also checks us in our expectations of gloom by showing us how ordinary and full her childhood actually is. Showing off her self-frayed jeans under her abaya, selling bracelets for pocket money and thinking up school pranks, she is the universal pre-teen. And when Wadjda’s money-making plans go awry, it is the mother we thought so hesitant and traditional who ultimately comes through for her daughter.