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Scales(سيدة البحر)

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭   Read critic reviews

Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iraq · 2020
1h 14m
Director Shahad Ameen
Starring Basima Hajjar, Ashraf Barhoum, Yagoub Alfarhan
Genre Drama, Fantasy

Strong-willed Hayat lives in a poor fishing village governed by a dark tradition: every family must provide a sacrifice to the sea creatures who inhabit the waters nearby. In turn, the sea creatures are hunted by the men of the village. Hayat must accept the brutal custom or find a way to escape.

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What are critics saying?


Variety by Alissa Simon

With its glittering black-and-white cinematography, immersive sound design, eerie score and creepy reveal, the film taps into something primal and chilling, with the taut first third particularly strong. But the narrative’s momentum and clarity dissipate in the middle and final sections even as the visuals continue to impress. Still, the boldly inventive Scales marks Ameen as a talent to watch.


Paste Magazine by Andrew Crump

Scales is a grim movie as much as it’s a gorgeous one. It isn’t without hope, but hope is in short supply, on land and underwater.


The New York Times by Beatrice Loayza

Ameen prioritizes symbolism teeming with sensory spirit over plot-based narrative, which ultimately renders her attempt at making a political statement too opaque and disjointed to have much of an impact.


New York Magazine (Vulture) by Bilge Ebiri

Saudi director Shahad Ameen’s mesmerizingly bleak fable Scales accomplishes something many films attempt but generally bungle: It tells a highly symbolic tale while conveying recognizable human emotions.


Wall Street Journal by Joe Morgenstern

It tests your tolerance for ambiguity as well as your visual acuity. Yet the spell it casts justifies the intense anxiety it creates by depicting a black-and-white society in which men have worth and women don’t.

75 by Monica Castillo

While some elements of the story don’t work as well as the visual playground Ameen sets up for her characters, Scales is still an impressive feature debut.


The Film Stage by Orla Smith

With a more patient script that’s richer in character detail, Scales could have been breathtaking. As it stands, it’s a slight visual feast.