- Director:Sherry Horman
- Cast:Sally Hawkins, Liya Kebede, Anthony Mackie, Timothy Spall, Juliet Stevenson
- Release Date:December 09, 2010
- Running time:122 minutes
- Film Worth:$10.50
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Despite capable performances and an important subject matter, this is let down by its unsure tone and tendency to veer toward sentimentality
Based on the bestselling autobiography by Waris Dirie, Desert Flower tackles the important and difficult subject of female circumcision. Without exaggeration, Waris' story is the truly incredible one of a Somali immigrant who became a supermodel and social activist, so it's slightly disappointing that director Sherry Horman forgoes all subtlety in order to stress what often feels like a rags-to-riches story.
Fleeing miles across the desert from an arranged marriage, Waris eventually lands in London, where she is taken in by the boisterous but sweet Marilyn (Sally Hawkins). Waris picks up a job as a cleaner at a fast food restaurant where she catches the eye of a famous fashion photographer (Timothy Spall), and is hired by a brusque modelling agent (Juliet Stevenson) who transforms her into a catwalk star.
Making her debut, Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede delivers a dignified performance as Waris, and Hawkins is wonderful as Marilyn, investing her slightly neurotic character with enough humanity to ensure that she never falls into caricature. The friendship which develops between the pair is one of the film's strengths.
Desert Flower is let down, however, by its unsure tone, which never seems to hit the right note. Horman moves too abruptly between the glossy world of fashion and the more disturbing issues at the film's core. Indeed, Desert Flower doesn't shy away from the story's dark moments, including a scene detailing Waris' circumcision at three-years-old. The placement of this brutally emotional sequence at the end of the film was a wise choice, as it stresses the similarity, rather than the difference, of women who are circumcised.
While Desert Flower is perhaps a little pulpy in places - and not helped by an overbearingly sentimental score - it should be commended for confronting this taboo issue and revealing its damaging and irreversible effects.