LFF 2021: The Gravedigger’s Wife – Review

Release Date – 21st October 2022, Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 22 minutes, Director – Khadar Ayderus Ahmed

When his wife (Yasmin Warsame) falls ill, gravedigger Guled (Omar Abdi) must travel back to his home village to attempt to raise the money to save her life.

There’s much within The Gravedigger’s Wife which boils down to the relationship at the heart of it. It’s perhaps why in some countries the film has been known by its original title of Guled And Nasra. Even when separated in the second half of the film you’re reminded of their connection and just what gravedigger Guled (Omar Abdi) is fighting for. When his wife, Nasra (Yasmine Warsame) has fallen into severe illness and requires lifesaving medical help, however neither – within their otherwise comfortable life of little-but-enough – can afford it. Therefore, he must travel back to his home village in the hope of raising money for her care. It’s a road filled with disappointment and downfall, yet he continues to fight and hope. Throughout such moments the film’s heart truly comes through, lifting things up and keeping you engaged with the piece and the characters it focuses on thanks to this spirit and nature.

When glancing back to Nasra at home we see her tended to by the couple’s teenage son, Mahad (Kadal Abdoul-Aziz Ibrahim), there are a handful of tenderly dealt with moments. Quiet sequences establishing there connection and further setting in the idea of the family unit at the heart of the piece. A theme lightly running throughout revolves around Guled worrying about his son and the influence that he has on him. “I have a son I can’t be an example for” he claims in relation to his job, sometimes referred to as an ‘ambulance chaser’ – literally chasing ambulances with a group of other gravediggers, each wanting to be the one to bury the body that might be in it just for a bit of extra money. It’s an idea that reflects in such wonderfully captured moments between mother and son as he tries to take care of her, while his father goes out to try and raise money.

While there’s a slight shift when Guled does begin his venture for funds it’s not one that takes you of the film. It helps to acclimatise to the idea of him being away from his wife, while still having her constantly in his mind, and indeed it helps to boost the emotional nature of some scenes and heighten the drama as a whole. While occasionally feeling like something slightly separate from what’s happening to Nasra, the arc that Abdi’s well-performed character goes through eventually comes together rather well. There’s an effective nature in the way things are dealt with and pan out over the course of the short 82 minute run-time. You find yourself mixed up within the mixture of worry and relief that each of the character’s face over the course of the film as they try to live up to what they believe is expected of them, while still focusing on their family as a whole.

It creates an interesting portrait for the viewer that’s easy to engage with. You find yourself connecting and sympathising with the characters as they each face their individual trials, still linking to, and reminding themselves of, each other. None more so than the central couple, with quiet performances from the two actors behind the characters there’s a real sense of heart to the film that stops things from becoming too downbeat, and perhaps even slow. It brings the piece up and helps to carry it, and the viewer, along. Creating a sense of hope in a number of ways for each of the film’s core themes and ideas. It comes together rather well and helps to bring you in to this quiet drama which never forgets the heart at the centre of its relationships.

Amongst the quiet tenderness you can feel and hear the heart within The Gravedigger’s Wife. It comes through in the performances and close connections, and indeed worries, amongst the central family. Helping to further bring you in and connect you with the unfolding narrative.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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