In the old quarter of Casablanca, Samia wanders the streets, knocking on doors and asking for work. We gather she is a hairdresser. One salon proprietor looks set to give her a go until she looks down and notices Samia is heavily pregnant. Her attitude changes and she shuts the door in Samia’s face: a pregnant woman on her own looking to support herself must not have a male provider, either husband or father. Therefore the child was conceived immorally and nobody will help her.
She knocks on the door of Abla, a widow who supports herself and her daughter, Warda, by baking and selling bread and pastries from home. Abla tells Samia she doesn’t need help. Samia sits down to rest on a bench opposite their house. The little girl takes a shine to her and they exchange smiles and greetings. Come evening the widow notices she is still there, head tipped to one side, sleeping. They both hear the noise of rowdy men further down the street – danger. The older woman finally takes pity on the younger woman and fetches her home, saying she can stay one night only.
Abla, whose motherhood is respectable because she is a widow, disapproves of Samia’s condition and she doesn’t even want to know how Samia’s plight came about. As the days pass their relationship changes and blossoms amid a complex interplay of emotions – pride, anxiety, compassion and that eternal bugbear – the fear of what other people will think.
Abla has an admirer – a regular customer who is tentatively and respectfully paying court. Although Adam is set in a cultural context severely judgmental of women’s sexual morality, men are not demonised. That’s one of the interesting and appealing things about this movie – it’s refreshingly free of the ideological baggage that weighs down so many Anglo films.
Case in point: I did my usual post-viewing online check for details, but it took a while to turn up this Moroccan Adam because Google kept throwing up a different, American movie of the same name. It’s about a young straight man – a ‘cisgendered male’, to use the turgid terminology of gender politics – who is briefly mistaken for a trans man and takes advantage of that to get closer to the young woman he fancies. It looks like a harmless romcom to me, but there are already strident demands for boycott and cancellation, for no better reason that I can see than that it dares to make light of gender identity.
But I digress. This Moroccan Adam is not a romcom or a tearjerker or a chick-flick in Arabic but a serious story about the eventual triumph of compassion and decency over social prejudice. And don’t expect a pat happy ending – it’s too sophisticated a story for that. Highly recommended.