VIFF 2021 Review: A Tale of Love and Desire

Written by Maria Athayde


Writer-director Leyla Bouzid’s A Tale of Love and Desire follows the story of two college students Ahmed (Sami Outalbali) and Farah (Zbeida Belhajamor) on a journey of lust, love, and self-discovery. The movie picks up on the first day of where Ahmed and Farah attend a comparative literature class focusing on Arab and western literature. From this point on, Ahmed and Farah develop a friendship that guides us through the rest of the movie.

This movie completely hinges on Outalbali’s and Belhajamor performance and both actors do a fantastic job conveying the emotions and sexual tension both characters feel. We have Ahmed, the French-Algerian student that is struggling to come to terms with his identity. At times, he does not know if he feels more French or Algerian. His internal struggle makes him seem closed off, defensive, and high strung. Then we have Farah, a confident Tunisian immigrant who is adjusting to her new life in college pretty well.

The friendship these two characters develop starts with a discussion of what should be considered literature and what should not. As they read The Perfumed Garden by Nefzawi, a 15th century sex manual of sorts, they start to grow closer and the movie starts to explore what love and desire mean. Throughout this exploration the movie is never voyeuristic or overtly explicit; it is more contemplative about what love and desire evoke in each of us. In the end, this movie feels just like a “slice of life”. There is nothing too remarkable or profound about it but, instead, it makes you sit with your feelings and think about your own circumstances.

A Tale of Love and Desire Trailer

A Tale of Love and Desire was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

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