Films often get into film festivals just because they originate from uncommon places. Exotic locales and languages get much more leeway from festival directors. But even taking this law of film festivals into account, I still watched over an hour of From A to B wondering how it was selected for the London Film Festival.
Directed by British-Emirati director Ali F Mostafa the film starts in Abu Dhabi. Three young, privileged Middle Eastern men set off on a road trip in a red Range Rover. Right from the start the premise is dubious. Years ago a friend died and these three men hadn’t gone together to the funeral. So now, five years later – with one man’s wife about to give birth – they decide to make the long drive to Beirut.
Their trip is filled with unlikely events. One of them drives into a (clearly fake) camel by selecting first gear instead of reverse. They get arrested – but luckily the father of one of the men is an ambassador and can quickly get them released. Much supposed humour comes from the inane, dangerous and creepy behaviour of letting air out of a rear tyre on a car of girls they fancy, and the effects of this pneumatic crippling. There’s exposition-laden talk to tell us what’s going on and then the huge coincidence of them bumping into their dead friend’s girlfriend in the same hotel he stayed in years before. The scenery is impressive – both urban skyscrapers and desert, there is a short trip to Petra and some attempts at humour but the lunatic way the girls are brought into the story negates the amusement.
Well over an hour into the film the trip takes them into Syria. The reasons for heading into the war zone are lame and when they are captured by rebels their interrogation appears very tame. Nevertheless it must be this interlude showing the difficulty of life in Syria that helped the film get selected for the festival. It also includes the best scene in the film, when an army officer quietly asks Omar if his father can get him out of the country.
From A to B is in the Laugh strand at the festival. Were there many laughs? A few people in the screening sniggered slightly a few times. Some moments would have looked funny on paper (then he selects the wrong gear and drives into a camel!!!) but humour is a tricky business and this time it didn’t transfer to the screen.
A tale of bravado based on a flawed premise. Why is it so necessary to visit a grave at any time – let alone years later? The men learn trite lessons including the surely obvious – don’t deflate tyres on other people’s cars. If a similar script had been made in the UK or USA it wouldn’t have been screened.