Pending a divorce and throwing her bid for U.S. citizenship to the wind, Laila (a convincing Saba Mubarak) returns to Amman after a decade and a half abroad, to the accompaniment of indisputably sad music. Her luggage doesn’t come off the carousel at the film’s outset, rather bluntly foreshadowing the turbulence to follow. Things have changed since she saw her family last: Her mother and younger sister have taken to wearing veils; unemployment has turned Dad, formerly a charismatic leftist, into a morose couch potato who nonetheless leaves every room his eldest daughter enters; even college boyfriend Rabea has lost his edge. Laila’s meetings with men behind desks—either dismissive (the head of her alma mater’s math department) or wholesale disapproving (her skirt scandalizes a loan officer)—fill out the rest of Transit Cities, the first feature from Jordanian director Mohammad Hushki. At 71 minutes, the film too schematically ratchets up the inhospitality, but its portrait of Amman—Hushki offsets the increasingly claustrophobic domestic scenes with views of the metropolis, which Laila also now finds too Westernized—is welcome. After all, Jordan has lately appeared on stateside screens primarily as a stand-in for Iraq.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 19, 2011