We promised ourselves to keep the ÉCU Movie Review light and breezy, nonchalant and fun. But then, we sometimes stumble upon movies like MUCH LOVED. Movies that are astounding, that make you double over, gasping for breath, that make you clench your fists with outrage and make your nose run and your eyes leak. In a nutshell, movies that blow your mind and stick to your skin. Movies that couldn’t leave the hairiest hipster indifferent, and even less so ÉCU’s sensitive souls.
With MUCH LOVED, Franco-Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch immerses us, body and soul, into the day-to-day life of four women who sell their bodies every night in Marrakesh. Four women, four prostitutes, four characters superbly interpreted by four daring Moroccans. Loubna Abidar, the only professional actress of the group, plays Noha, the madam, the mother, the “queen of whores” who takes care of everybody and pisses in mixers. Halima Karaouane plays Soukaina the romantic, the tender heart that loves watching telly in the morning and listening to poesy (at night). Asmaa Lazrak plays Randa, the “señorita” , the one who dreams of being reunited with her father and lusts over other women. And finally, Sara Elmhamdi-Elalaoui, Hlima, the field harlot with boorish manners and a rounded belly.
Four women who go out late at night, drink, smoke, on occasions sniff, and who earn their living from others’ pleasure. For Moroccan regulars, opulent Saudis and borderline imperialist Europeans, they fuck. Yes, they fuck. Whores do not speak in prose. Thanks to an ultra-realist and cruelly raw direction, the movie does not spare us from any details of those sex workers’ life: seduction, desire, violence, suffering, periods interrupting business and salutary but embarrassing impotence. And the peas. Always, everywhere. The money you leave on the dresser, you keep in your bra, you steal and hide in the most intimate parts of your body and even the ones you “pick up with your teeth, like a dog”. MUCH LOVED is about all this. A detour on the dark side of reality, behind the closed doors of prostitution.
But MUCH LOVED is about so much more. Terribly contemporary, this movie is a raw reflection of our societies (and not only the arabic ones), of their excesses, taboos and prejudices. Thus Nabil Ayouch raises on the side questions about minors’ prostitution, intolerance against homosexuality, family and social respectability, poverty, faith. And love. Because, for us, MUCH LOVED is above all a love story. The love between four prostitutes who care about each other, pick themselves up and dust themselves off. The director brings us into this strange little family’s privacy, sharing with his audience the affection that links these four fallen women. They are beautiful, they are proud, they are dignified. And we can’t help but love them back.
An immensely human film, gracious and hideous. A fucking film, in other words.