It’s a ritual as old as college itself, sneaking out of the dorm at night to go clubbing, but for Nedjma (Lyna Khoudri) it’s more than just an evening given over to a drunken good time. The enterprising young seamstress has transformed the women’s room of a local hot spot into her own personal boutique. Next stop: uniting her female classmates for a campus fashion show. Set some 20 years in the past, the title of Mounia Meddour’s fact-based tale of a progressive young Algerian woman is slang for “pretty girl.” It was a time when young women well on their way to a college degree thought it best not to consume alcohol while standing up lest they succumb to Satan’s gravitational tug. Nejma soon learns that in a culture such as hers, where she’s taught not to expose more than one eye from behind her haik, attractiveness goes so far as the menfolk allow. “Cover your face,” a local paperhanger advises, “before a shroud does.” An extra-added layer of heavy duty melodrama in the form of a friend’s unexpected pregnancy slows the film, but not enough to diminish the overall power of the story or its performances. (2019) — Scott Marks
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