Universal acclaim - based on 26 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 26
  2. Negative: 0 out of 26
  1. Reviewed by: Bruce Ingram
    Sep 19, 2013
    Al-Mansour has managed to embue Wadjda with a hopeful spirit, partially because she takes time to show women finding ways to be themselves in private moments. And partially because she suggests with a few subtle touches that the situation might be slowly improving.
  2. Reviewed by: Oliver Lyttelton
    Aug 23, 2013
    One of the best films of the year.
  3. Reviewed by: Jay Weissberg
    Dec 15, 2013
    With enormous sympathy for all, Al Mansour captures the isolation of Saudi women and their parallel lives of freedom at home and invisibility outside.
  4. Reviewed by: Randy Cordova
    Oct 9, 2013
    The movie’s best moments are the small ones.
  5. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Sep 15, 2013
    It’s a stunningly assured debut, a slyly subversive delight, and one of my favorite movies of the year so far.
  6. Reviewed by: Andrew Lapin
    Sep 12, 2013
    Wadjda is an object of stark beauty, an oasis of free-spirited cinema emerging from the desert.
  7. Reviewed by: Alan Scherstuhl
    Sep 10, 2013
    A simple, solid, deeply affecting film.
  8. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Oct 3, 2013
    Wadjda is a movie about freedom - and nothing represents freedom with the metaphoric simplicity and symmetry of a bicycle.
  9. Reviewed by: Peter Keough
    Oct 3, 2013
    The world of cinema is richer for the voice of Al Mansour; she speaks for the women of her country, and for people everywhere.
  10. Reviewed by: Farran Smith Nehme
    Sep 30, 2013
    What makes the movie so delightful is that Wadjda isn’t trying to make trouble; she’s just being herself. A shot of the system of wire hangers attached to her radio so she can pick up Western music stations sums up her can-do attitude.
  11. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Sep 12, 2013
    Not only is this a deftly crafted and superbly acted film, but Wadjda sheds a powerful light on what women face, starting in childhood, in an oppressive regime.
  12. Reviewed by: Mark Jenkins
    Sep 13, 2013
    Wadjda offers an interesting contrast to films made in Iran. Where the latter country has a long cinematic tradition, Mansour's is the first feature shot entirely in Saudi Arabia.
  13. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Oct 24, 2013
    The easiest way for filmmakers to show injustice in the world is through the eyes of a child. In the case of Haifaa al-Mansour's movie, the injustice is Saudi Arabia's male-centric culture, and the child is a preteen girl named Wadjda.
  14. Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    Sep 16, 2013
    Al Mansour is too smart to overdo the symbolic spin, but the thrust of her film, toward the end, could hardly be more urgent. [16 Sept. 2013, p. 72]
  15. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Sep 12, 2013
    With impressive agility, Wadjda finds room to maneuver between harsh realism and a more hopeful kind of storytelling.
  16. Reviewed by: Jordan Hoffman
    Sep 12, 2013
    This resonant film, detailing struggles in a far-flung place, represents world cinema in the classic sense.
  17. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Sep 10, 2013
    An Arabic-German coproduction, it is a rare movie shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, which has no cinema industry to speak of, and the first feature by a female filmmaker from that country. Forbidden from mixing with the men in her crew, Al-Mansour often directed via walkie-talkie from the back of a van.
  18. Reviewed by: Kevin Harley
    Aug 20, 2013
    Al-Mansour carefully dodges easy uplift, but her message of hope to future generations of Saudi women is clear.
  19. Reviewed by: David Parkinson
    Aug 20, 2013
    As simple and charming as you could wish for, this is a genuinely pioneering debut from a female Saudi filmmaker and a striking piece of work by any standards.
  20. Reviewed by: Robbie Collin
    Aug 20, 2013
    Modest as it may look, this is boundary-pushing cinema in all the best ways, and what a thrill it is to hear those boundaries creak.
  21. Reviewed by: Xan Brooks
    Aug 20, 2013
    You'd need a heart of stone not to be won over by Wadjda, a rebel yell with a spoonful of sugar and a pungent sense of a Riyadh society split between the home, the madrasa and the shopping mall.
  22. Reviewed by: Marjorie Baumgarten
    Oct 16, 2013
    If Wadjda, this Muslim girl, calls up film memories of adolescent Marjane Satrapi in "Persepolis", whose Western-loving lifestyle is uprooted by Iran’s Islamic Revolution, or the young women in Jafar Panahi’s "Offside," who countermand the rules that forbid them from entering stadiums to watch men’s soccer matches, you wouldn’t be far off the mark.
  23. Reviewed by: Walter Addiego
    Sep 19, 2013
    A simple story told with economy, Wadjda is a notable example of old-school, humanistic filmmaking. It's also genuinely groundbreaking: the first feature shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, and the first film directed by a Saudi woman.
  24. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Sep 19, 2013
    In the scenes between mother and daughter in their apartment, the world outside no longer judging every action, new worlds open up. And therein lies the cinema's role in our lives: It reveals what is concealed to others.
  25. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Sep 12, 2013
    While the uniqueness of the film's Riyadh setting and the disturbing nature of Wadjda's depictions of life for women behind the Saudi curtain are thoroughly involving, the actual plotline of a 10-year-old girl's determination to own a bicycle can be as standard as it sounds.
  26. Reviewed by: R. Kurt Osenlund
    Sep 10, 2013
    It doesn't play like reality, but like boilerplate filmic fantasy, and its novel setting and inception struggles seem positioned as a beard--or veil, if you will--to mask its mediocrity.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 17 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 4
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 4
  3. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. Sep 21, 2013
    The total lack of films that come out of Saudi Arabia made Wadjda, a Saudi film by Haiffa Al-Mansour, instantly alluring. Haiffa Al-Mansour is already credited as being the first successful woman filmmaker in Saudi Arabia’s history.

    The precocious 10-year Wadjda is growing up in Riyadh where she wants nothing more than a shiny new bicycle, but not only is she a little short on riyals, in Saudi Arabia women do not to ride bicycles. Saudi moral code bans woman from driving, going out in public unveiled, living unaccompanied, leaving the country alone, and opposing their husband’s orders in any way.

    This is very much Al- Mansour’s film. She charms the viewer with the common everyday struggles of the Saudi woman, and rather than address the issues in a combative way, her approach is warm, even cute. This draws us in to her characters and provides us with some heartfelt laughs along the way.
    Small details make grand impressions: In an all girls school teenage students paint their toenails, a sin, and are publicly vilified for it. The mere possibly that workmen half a mile away might see school girls playing in their courtyard forces all the girls to rush inside, lest they be judged impure. Pubescent girls are considered impure and must use a tissue just flip the pages of Koran.

    Wadjad’s truly beautiful mother spends much of her time perfecting her appearance only then to have to then cover herself with a full hijab. She is never openly defiant; defiance is impossible, but even thought she is obeying age old traditions that we’d assume would have dulled any emotional protest, through the mother’s submission we get a brief glimpse of her distress, the natural human emotional distress that no amount of “aged tradition” or religious subjugation has the right to inflict on any human being.

    In a country where cinemas are banned, Riyadh is not exactly a city where women can just go around shooting films. Females mixing with male co-workers would bring dire consequences. Al-Mansour shot the film anyway, directing much of it from the back of a van, and the result is a film representing the triumph of the defiant feminine spirit, in all forms.
    Full Review »
  2. Feb 17, 2014
    The film's value lies mostly in its setting. Taking a peek inside one of the most insane countries in the world is in itself worth the price of admission, but Wadjda's story just isn't strong enough to stand on its own. Full Review »
  3. Nov 9, 2013
    Wow, a movie made with heart for the heart.
    It's a very simple plot but extremely beautiful, the main character, Wadjda, stole your heart
    from the beginning.
    Definitely a movie that everybody should watch and feel.
    I love it.
    Full Review »