Villa 69 is the awarded debut feature of the talented director Ayten Amin. Premiered and awarded with the Special Jury Award at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Villa 69 is surely a worthy beginning for the young director.
Villa 69 is this beautiful and timeless picture about life, death and hope embodied in the main character Hussein, who is dying, alone, in a self-imposed exile. When his sister Nadra (Lebleba) and her grandson move in by force, Hussein’s routine is shaken up leading to different cathartic meltdowns. Bit by bit he bonds with Seif and is suddenly confronted with his mortality and will to live.
Khaled Abol Naga brilliantly plays the terminal ill, 60 something, Hussein, who seeks solace in his self-inflicted solitude at his home, the villa he grew up in. He is this grumpy yet charming perfectionist who finds comfort and gratification in his routine. A witty and charming sense of humor spins its way through the plot, shedding light on the complicated and often obscure human relations of the protagonists.
Episodes of his illness and decay contrast with joyful moments like a improvised jam session, where Hussein plays the Oud with Seif’s band, subtly showing the youthful and tender side of Hussein, who somehow refuses to die. Inserted flashbacks of a young and careless Hussein among his friends reveal what must have been under the grumpy façade. His way younger ex-lover Sanaa (Arwa Gouda), the anticipated visits of Hanaa, his nurse, as well as Saif and his friend, give Hussein comfort and seem like a welcome distraction from confronting his demons.
Khaled Abol Naga undoubtedly gave one of his best performances to date and carried Hussein skillfully and charmingly throughout the plot. Worth mentioning is the incredibly lovable performance of Heba Yousry, herself a director, who played the role of Hanaa, the nurse and confidant of Hussein. She plays her role with such simplicity and wit that you would wish to see much more of her. Another promising performance was that of first time actor Omar Ghandour, who played Seif, the sister’s grandson. His spontaneity is refreshing and his resemblance with Khaled Abol Naga worked in his favor.
Villa 69 is written by Mohamed El Hajj, co-produced by Mohamed Hefzy’s Film Clinic and Wael Omar and directed by Ayten Amin. It will be locally released in December 2013.