Three Veils features three interlinked tales about young Arab-American women in Los Angeles, dealing with being products of both modern US culture and the mores and traditions of the countries their parents come from.
The first story follows Leila, who is preparing for her arranged marriage, putting aside her wilder impulses and respecting the traditions of the culture she comes from. However her father begins to suspect she isn’t really happy about what’s happening, and her prospective husband reveals himself to be increasingly controlling. Next up is Leila’s study partner Amira, who’s had lesbian feelings since a young age, but after her mother realised this she got Amira to dedicate herself to The Koran and is determined her daughter will put her same-sex feeling aside. However the arrival of Nikki in Amira’s life stirs things up, and makes her realise that maybe she cannot be happy in the life her mother is pushing her towards.
The final part of the movie concentrates on Nikki, who we already know from the earlier stories (she’s also Leila’s best friend) has a lot of problems, likes to drink and keeps needing a bed to sleep in away from her home. It’s revealed she has a dark past, including molestation and the death of her mother, and is now dealing with an angry, alcoholic father who cannot connect with his daughter. Like Amira, perhaps she needs to escape too.
While Three Veils stretches a bit too far into melodrama at time, and the acting is a bit varied (the young women’s mothers won’t be winning any Oscars), it’s still an entertaining and absorbing journey into the lives of its central characters. The difficulties of being a second generation immigrant in a culture very different to the one of your parents is a fascinating subject, which is often handled too timidly on-screen. It’s particularly interesting that Three Veils deals with young Muslim women, who have a whole extra level of cultural identity to negotiate, both because of the subjugation of women in some Arab nations and the fact Islam has been an increasingly contentious thing in the West since 9/11. They don’t just have too cultures to deal with, but also the fact the place they’re living in makes endless false assumptions about them, which Three Veils tries to disentangle.
Although Three Veils doesn’t have all the answers, it gives some interesting insights into it, and it’s also nice that it doesn’t do the normal film thing of painting every Muslim parent as a dictatorial monster obsessed with honour and having their children doing exactly what they tell them. Admittedly the mothers tend to be a bit like that, but it’s still more varied and interesting than you might expect.
Overall Verdict: An intriguing triptych of tales that given an interesting insight into the lives of young Muslim women in the US, even if it is a little melodramatic at times.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac