Film Review: He Named Me Malala

He Named Me Malala is showing at Plymouth Arts Centre Cinema from 27 November – 3 December.

In 2012 I was a female graduate feeling equally excited and terrified about the opportunities that awaited me.

In the same year I also watched a brave young girl from Pakistan, along with the rest of the world, as she fought for her life after being shot in the head by the Taliban for choosing to go to school.

The Nobel-prize winning teenager survived and still isn’t afraid to tell the Taliban to do one (although, admittedly, with much more eloquence). I would defy anybody to not be in complete awe of her.

To me she’s a hero, and so the question is, can any director truly do her justice?

In regards to Davis Guggenheim’s latest release, I’m torn.

It is worth being noted that for any fan of Malala’s work and story, this film is a must-see – but take tissues! Using archive material, personal interviews and some of the most stunning illustration I have ever seen in film, Guggenheim explores the harrowing event and Malala herself. For me it was particularly interesting to learn more about how the Taliban slowly transformed The Swat Valley from a haven to a prison.

Another appealing aspect of the picture was Guggenheim’s close rapport with Malala. As she sat in fits of giggles over her purely platonic, ahem, interest in dishy cricketers and shared her experiences of struggling to top the class in the British schooling system – we were about to meet the unsure teenager behind the emotive public speaker who is leading an integral worldwide campaign. She says, “Are they really interested in me?”.

For me the best part of the 88 minutes was discovering Malala’s relationship with her father and the warm man himself who has clearly inspired her in her choices, but has often been neglected in media coverage.

However with Hollywood comes hyperbole sadly. Guggenheim’s overly emotional film score, the disjointed narrative and his desperate attempts to encourage Malala to talk about suffering somehow managed to portray her story in the same fashion as the contestants on a Britain’s Got Talent.

Malala is strong and is recognised due to her choosing not to play it safe, in this case it is unfortunate that Guggenheim has.

Despite this, any Malala fans would be foolish to miss this flick, I’m certainly glad that I saw it.

Carly Squires

 Twitter: @CarlyCooks
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