Award-winning screenwriter Suha Arraf (The Syrian Bride, Lemon Tree) makes her feature directorial debut with this story of spirited eighteen-year-old orphan Badia, whose arrival at the Ramallah home of her three spinster aunts unleashes a torrent of family secrets and long-held grudges.
Best known as the co-writer of such celebrated films as The Syrian Bride and The Lemon Tree, Suha Arraf makes her narrative-feature debut with this intimate, masterfully written Chekhovian drama (complete with three sisters).
Leaving the Catholic orphanage in Jerusalem where she was raised, eighteen-year-old Badia (Maria Zreik) arrives at the home of her spinster aunts in Ramallah. Crossing the threshold, she finds a house — and three lives — frozen in time. The sisters, Juliette (Nisreen Faour), Violet (Ula Tabari), and Antoinette (Cherien Dabis), are the last remnants of the bourgeois Christian minority that stayed on in the city after the war. In their fifties and nearly destitute, they are ruled by Juliette's strict domestic routines and their perception of themselves as classically educated, socially proper ladies of the upper crust. Now unexpectedly saddled with the orphaned daughter of their late brother, the sisters decide to dispense with this upheaval and potential shame by marrying Badia off to a man from a good family. But Badia's spirited temperament — and her secret love for a very unsuitable man — rattles the tightly wound sisters, and soon secrets and historical grudges cascade through Villa Touma, resulting in a dramatic shift in the family power structure.
Vividly rendering the sepia-toned claustrophobia of the sisters' crumbling manor, and aided immeasurably by a quartet of wonderful performances from her actors, Arraf with Villa Touma announces herself as a significant director in her own right.