The Gravedigger’s Wife
In many ways, The Gravedigger’s Wife is about waiting for death. Omar Abdi’s Guled and his crew of gravediggers wait expectantly outside the hospital, hoping each arriving ambulance offers the sombre opportunity of money to be made. Meanwhile, the illness of his wife Nasra, played by Yasmin Warsame in her big-screen debut, casts a long, ominous shadow right from the very start.
Despite this haunting spectre of morbidity, a life-affirming vein of humour and compassion courses through the film, fuelled by Abdi and Wasarme’s captivating on-screen chemistry. Tragic and hauntingly vulnerable, their unrelenting love for each other and will to live a life that seems to be slipping through both their fingers is profoundly moving.
Director Khadar Ayderus Ahmed really drives home the hardship of a stark material existence, setting the action in the outskirts of Djibouti against a raw and rugged backdrop of dusty graveyards, pockmarked with stones and ramshackle homes of rusted corrugated iron. However, even as Abdi crosses a literal desert in search of money for his wife’s operation, the stunning contrast of the vibrant clothing worn by many of the characters offers an illuminating sense of hope.
While giving a searing portrayal of the end of life, Ahmed also illuminates the struggles of the start of one. Kadar Abdoul-Aziz Ibrahim gives a touching performance as Nasra and Guled’s young son, Mahad, who increasingly finds himself at odds with his friends, isolated from his father and left to shoulder care duties for his mother’s worsening condition. However, as with Mahad’s parents, Ahemd’s story-telling never stoops to sympathy mongering, instead illustrating the deep determination and dignity in caring for each other.
In his second outing as a director, Khadar Ayderus Ahmed has proved himself a potent storyteller, supported here by a faultless cast who, with unflinching intensity, capture the dramatic, and even self-destructive, ends we will go to save the ones we love
The Gravedigger’s Wife does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for The Gravedigger’s Wife here: