While the subgenre known as the odd couple road picture has seen plenty of mileage over the years, when the pairing involves a 40-ish leper and an orphaned 10-year-old boy, there’s still fertile character-driven ground to be covered, as evidenced in “Yomeddine,” a tender first feature by A.B. Shawky.
Despite being long cured of the affliction that left him with a heavily scarred face and gnarled fingers, Beshay (a remarkable Rady Gamal) has never left the Egyptian desert leper colony that has been his home since he was a young child.
Following the death of his mentally ill wife, Beshay decides to seek out his roots, accompanied by a spirited but lonely Nubian orphan nicknamed Obama (fellow nonthespian Ahmed Abdelhafiz), and the two embark on a peril-filled trek to their ultimate, physical and spiritual destination.
Perhaps in the hands of a more experienced filmmaker, the production’s obvious influences — particularly “The Elephant Man” — might have been more muted and the many tonal shifts better finessed. But, conversely, Shawky’s decision to cast nonprofessionals lends the production a stirring authenticity.
As Gamal, himself raised in a leper colony, knowingly navigates the uncomfortable glares he encounters along the way, “Yomeddine” (Arabic for “judgment day”) takes an affecting path toward belonging and acceptance.
In Arabic with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Playing: Starts May 31, Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica