THE PERFECT CANDIDATE – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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A few years ago, writer-director Haifaa Al-Mansour made history with her Wadjda, a delightful tale of a little girl in Riyadh who really just desperately wants a bicycle. This was the first movie shot in Saudi Arabia, and Al-Mansour’s debut made her the first female Saudi filmmaker.

After a few cinematic detours into English-language, Western-set films, Al-Mansour returns home with The Perfect Candidate, about a young doctor, Maryam (Mila Al Zahrani), who rather accidentally ends up running for her local Riyadh municipal council. As with Wadjda, the barriers and the opposition that Maryam encounters on her journey are not that different from what women in ostensibly more free, more feminist nations have to cope with whenever we dare to challenge perceived notions about what we’re “supposed” to be doing with our lives. And her determination to overcome them is similarly heartening, inspiring, and familiar. Continue reading…

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MaryAnn Johanson

MaryAnn Johanson is a freelance writer on film, TV, DVD, and pop culture from New York City and now based in London. She is the webmaster and sole critic at, which debuted in 1997 and is now one of the most popular, most respected, and longest-running movie-related sites on the Internet. Her film reviews also appear in a variety of alternative-weekly newspapers across the U.S. Johanson is one of only a few film critics who is a member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (the Webby organization), an invitation-only, 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. She is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC Radio, LBC-London, and on local radio programs across North America, and she served as a judge at the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival at the 2003 I-Con, the largest SF convention on the East Coast. She is the author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Read Johanson's recent articles below. For her archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).