(a “do not conform to the patterns of this world” film review by Timothy J. Verret)
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
Can there be any simpler plot than a rebellious Saudi girl who enters a Koran recitation competition at her school in hopes to winning enough money to buy her own bicycle? Like most rewarding films with a simpler plot, WADJA challenges us in complex ways to question the patterns of this world that are constricting patterns that only imprison us. The challenge lies simply in that we must NOT conform to the world’s patterns that imprison us but “ride through” these patterns to our own freedom! I’m not particularly a huge fan of breaking the patterns (rules) for breaking-the-patterns’ (-rules’) sake, but I am especially a huge fan of knowing these patterns (rules), questioning whether they free or imprison us, and then BY GOD! breaking these patterns (rules) at all costs!
An exceptionally restrained and yet liberating performance by Waad Mohammed as Wadjda is at the heart of this film. Mohammed is young in body yet old in heart and mind. She conveys so much of her heart and mind in her face of quiet rebellion that her mouth of words could never convey. It’s ironic, as well, that Mohammed could do this because the girls and women of this time are required to cover their faces in public, although Wadjda, of course, “does not conform” to this. The film is satisfying because we are satisfied that Wadjda triumphs in every twist and turn of a time and place of constricting patterns (rules). Wadjda won’t wear that face cover, she won’t wear those black shoes like her classmates, and she just won’t do anything that others tell her to conform to. Once again, Wadjda is not breaking the patterns (rules) just to break them, but breaking them because someone has to break them to be free to be “me.” Thank you, Wadjda, for that!
There was one scene in this film that cut me very deep in my soul. During the Koran recitation competition, Wadjda recited these words in song (and I’m paraphrasing): “Beware of those who say they believe and talk of peace but there is mischief in their hearts.” This brought me back to the Bible verse, “Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity, which speak peace to their neighbors, but mischief is in their hearts” (Psalm 28:3). I think this is such an apropos Bible verse for the times we are living in now. So many, including professed Christians, say they believe and talk of peace, and yet they have mischief in their hearts because they are hating on their neighbors. If this is true, and I believe it is, this makes Wadjda a saint, because she had zero mischief in her heart, only the drive (or “ride”) to live out of her heart for God (Allah) with no constrictions to freedom. Saint Wadjda! I like the sound of that AND I like that Wadjda’s heart fits that (BOTH!).
The ending of this film is a real heart-tugger. Wadjda gets what’s coming to her (BY GOD!) and she deserves it. We all receive what’s coming to us (BY GOD!) when we fight for our freedom to be who God intended us to be. We receive it because we know we deserve better than what the constricting patterns (rules) of the world wants for us. I sure do wish I had seen this film when I was Wadjda’s age. I might not have understood the simpler yet complex plot of the film, but I would have understood that I never was supposed to conform to what others wanted me to be. I would have told others, “Do whatever you desire to do, but I will be doing whatever I desire to do, and I’ll be riding my bike right into the sunset!” I would join Wadjda to ride my bike, knowing full well that the wheels of my bike could never constrict me to the ground when my need to be free has me shooting for the stars!
Although a slow-moving film (works, though, for poetic reasons), WADJDA moves in the simpler yet complex ways of one such as Wadjda who has a will to not conform to the patterns (rules) of a constricting world. As the Romans 12:2 Bible verse informs, a will such as this is “good, pleasing and perfect” to test and approve what God’s Will is. Anytime we, like Wadjda, are true to ourselves and seek our own freedom at all costs, it is most definitely “good, pleasing, and perfect” to what God’s Will is for us!