SIFF 2018 Review: On Borrowed Time


On Borrowed Time has a story that transcends cultures, or perhaps one could say it speaks of a global sub-culture of the elderly, the ones who are relegated to retirement homes to await the end of their days.

The story is told with a fine blend of comedy and drama.  We have four old friends at a Dubai retirement home who deem themselves “The Four Musketeers.”  However, of the four, only Abu Hasan al Falaki has retained a sense of adventure and he strives to get the other three “off their butts” and partaking of the joys of life once more.  Sad al-Faraj gives a heart-felt performance in this role.

When another of the four, The General (Salloum Haddad), hears he is to inherit a fortune from a long-lost relative, the four set out on an adventure.  And they take along their male nurse Khalid, of course, as they need a driver and someone to care for wheelchair bound Abu Hamad Albulbul, another delightful character played by Marei Al Halyan.  The fourth elder is the hypochondriac nicknamed the Pharmacist, played by Mansoor Alfeeli.   They make up a comical but also compassionate foursome.

With little translation, we could substitute some of our favorite elder actors like Alan Alda, and little would be lost for an American audience.  The main difference, if this was an American film, is that there would be women in the retirement home!

However, I enjoyed that this was a United Arab Emirates movie filmed in Dubai.  We have so many misconceptions of Arabs, and Muslims in general, and this film offers a humanizing view of individuals rather than the stereotypes so many Americans hold of Arabs.

There is even a romantic angle to the film with the handsome Khalid, a most kind young male nurse played by Fouad Ali, and the beautiful Ruqayyeh, a doctor at the retirement home played by Layla Abdullah.  The roles they play strongly remind one of Sonny (Dev Patel) and Sunaina (Tina Desai) in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movies.  Abdullah Al Junaibi did a great job as the villain, the mean and paranoid retirement home manager Jumaa.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film.

Oh, and by the way, do not confuse this with the 1939 Lionel Barrymore film of the same title.   The Arab title of our UAE film is Shabab Sheyab.

This movie was reviewed as part of coverage for the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF 2018).

By Karen Samdahl
Related categories: Movie Reviews, SIFF