Hepta (The Last Lecture) was probably the most anticipated Egyptian movie of the year, which comes as no surprise as it is based on the massively successful, best-selling novel of the same title. The novel received polarising reviews, which ranged from being called a masterpiece of modern Egyptian romantic fiction to a piece of overly sentimental literature that exclusively targets teenagers. The movie, on the other hand, though suffering some fatal flaws, proved to be a much better product than the source it was based upon.
Topping the list of things that made both fans of the novel and non-readers excited for the cinematic released, is the film’s massively talented and star-studded cast. Hepta definitely benefits from having Maged Al-Kidwani as its protagonist and narrator. From the moment his ‘Dr Shoukry’ is introduced to us on screen, one can’t help but fall in love with the simplicity and spontaneity of Al-Kidwani’s performance. The presence and command that he brings to the movie with every scene makes viewers eagerly await his plotline coming back to the screen, allowing the movie to be more enjoyable, and his character to be the most memorable within the plethora of fairly similar characters.
Unfortunately, not every star of the A-list cast performs as brilliantly as Maged El Kidwani. Some of the supposedly most powerful scenes of the movie are ruined by the unimaginatively cold performance of Amr Yousef. The highly established actor fails miserably at transcending his character’s pain and loneliness to the audience. Yousef also gets no help from the filmmakers in making his weak effort appear a little better, instead they supplement his dreadful portrayal with some out-of-place customs and unbelievably laughable lines.
Ahmed Malek and Gamila Awad’s great chemistry makes their storyline stand out from the others, allowing their performances to shine even brighter. Yasmin Raies and Dina El-Sherbiny both give solid performances, cementing their names as worthy to be on the Egyptian audience’s radar. The film features many cameos, with the likes of Nelly Karim, Ahmed Bedair, Sherin Reda, Hany Adel and Mohamed Farrag all adding to the film’s value, providing a sense of surprise and helping the plot move forwards smoothly.
Director Hady El Bagoury, who previously worked on Wahed Sahih and Warda, delivers beyond the usual expectations with Hepta. His creativity and attention to detail are obvious throughout the entire movie. From his intricate timing in shifting from one plotline to another, to his delicate camera movements and interesting choice angles from which to shoot, he showcases his talent as a confident director who has a focused vision of the look and feel he wants for the film adaption of Hepta.
The use of light by cinematographer Gamal El Boushy (an award winning director of photography and member of Australian Cinematographers Society) beautifully places the audience right in the film’s often romantic atmosphere. The soothing score by the notorious Hisham Nazih, who also worked on Tito, Ibrahim Labyad, El Saher, and X Large, is one of the most striking aspects of Hepta. His music is suitable enough to help bring the audience’s attention to certain events, yet also so magical that one might find himself waiting for the credits to begin to just listen to his masterpiece of a score.
The only let down within the movie’s technicalities might be its editing. Editor Ahmed Hafez’s out-of-place cuts result in incoherent scenes at times, consequently distracting the audience and disturbing the overall dreamy feeling of the movie. While hidden at times by the movie’s fast pace, these editorial errors become so obvious at times that even the most inexperienced moviegoer would realise that something wrong just happened on screen.
All in all, Hepta, while initially thought to be an unfilmable novel, still found its way to the screens as it fell between the hands of a talent as imaginative and daring as Hady El Bagoury. It is a very good movie considering what the Egyptian cinema has been offering its audience lately. It brings back a genre that has become increasingly absent in the past few years. The gigantic success it has garnered could open the door for more quality romantic movies in the future.
Ahmed El Goarany is an Egyptian, movie blogger, aspiring filmmaker and a pharmacist