Review of “Three Veils”

Three Veils offers a poignant, dramatic tale of three young Middle-Eastern American women and their colliding lives. Occasionally, the film paints its settings and characters with a rather broad brush, and the script contains uneven moments, but it’s an earnest, entertaining and heartfelt production.

Leila (Mercedes Masöhn) is the pretty, stable “girl next door.” We begin with her staring into a mirror, her voiceover explaining that she’s just gotten engaged (by way of arranged marriage) and all she can think about is her wedding night – specifically her first time with husband-to-be Ali. We watch her prepare for the wedding, host a swinging engagement party and begin to go on awkward dates with Ali, the most aggressively awful kisser of all time.

She relates her adventures in make out purgatory to Nikki (Sheetal Sheth), her free-spirited best friend (and the second of our leading ladies). Slinky, sexy, and perpetually guzzling booze, Nikki is the life of every party, but she’s not all fun and games. A college student with more than the usual alcohol problem, she’s hiding from a scary past and terrified of falling into a dead end future.

Amira (Angela Zahra), our third protagonist, is a shy, resolutely religious girl with five-alarm lesbian tendencies and a rigid, uncompromising mother. She meets Nikki and Leila by asking them to join her study group – an offer they promptly (and rudely) refuse. Soon, though, Amira tends to a sick Nikki in the library bathroom, and the two begin a friendship that quickly tips the scales of emotional dependency.

As we progress, Ali’s behavior towards his fiancée begins to turn from doting to jealous and controlling, especially once Leila starts hanging out with Jamal (Garen Boyajian), who just so happens to be Amira’s brother. A likeable artist who works part-time in Leila’s family’s restaurant, he seems to be channeling Michael from Queer as Folk (Hal Sparks) with his friendly smile and mildly dorky antics.

Meanwhile, Amira and Nikki’s relationship becomes increasingly intimate, as Nikki begins to stay over and seek comfort from her new friend. Amira is immediately conflicted – her extremely strict upbringing clashes with her seemingly inexplicable desire to be around Nikki all the time. It doesn’t take her long to realize that she wants to be much more than “just friends,” something a sweaty night out at the club brings to a head quicker than expected.

The events of the film are played out from each woman’s perspective in turn, with each filling in her personal back-story through voiceover and flashbacks. We’ll learn all about Amira’s too-close-for-comfort “best friend” in high school, whom her mother almost caught her kissing, prompting the strict religious regimen. We find out about Nikki’s dark past and family secrets, in sequences comprised of the movie’s most disturbing, best-performed material. The threads are woven together with grace and subtlety, enough to circumvent the usual confusion and repetition that sometimes comes from the “multiple narrative” device.