Hala is her father’s pride and joy. Dutiful and academically gifted, she skillfully navigates both her social life as a teen in Chicago and her obligations as an only child to Pakistani immigrants. With high-school graduation looming, however, Hala is bursting with sexual desire. When she meets Jesse, a classmate who shares her love for poetry and skateboarding, their romance is complicated by her Muslim faith and a father who is prepared to arrange her marriage according to their family’s cultural tradition. As Hala begins to challenge these customs, her parents’ own lives start to unravel, testing the power of Hala’s flourishing voice.
HALA, expanded from Minhal Baig’s 2016 short film of the same name, brings a vital and layered female perspective to the coming-of-age genre. Baig crafts a character and story with immense relatability and unexpected consequence, while Geraldine Viswanathan inhabits Hala with curiosity and grace. Buoyed by exquisite cinematography, Hala treasures the specificity of one young American woman’s experience learning to swim in uncharted waters to discover her individuality.