Netflix offered Sabah: A Love Story, a story about a devout Muslim Canadian woman who falls in love and has to deal with the subsequent culture clashes that result.
Arsinée Khanjian stars as Sabah, a Muslim woman in her forties who has never been married and dutifully takes care of her mother, while her controlling brother keeps everyone under his thumb. The movie is billed as a cross-cultural romantic comedy, featuring serious cultural clash moments while attempting the comedy and warmth of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But while the movie aimed high, it fell short.
Sabah is a woman who never wanted to get married. The movie never delves into why she didn’t want to get married, or whether marriage was ever an option for her. It simply puts her into the role of “good Muslim daughter,” who cares for her mother and looks after her niece, as well as “good Muslim sister,” who puts up with her brother’s stereotypically oppressing presence. She wears a tight headscarf and dumpy, form-concealing clothing.
One day Sabah meets Stephen, a hunky white Canadian guy, while at the public pool. Her behavior is very meek (good Muslim women don’t go to the pool!) and once he enters, she slinks away, hoping he doesn’t see her swimsuit-clad body. Eventually, they make contact, and Stephen gradually pulls her out of her shell. By the way, her shell is her hijab and her dumpy clothing: the more she sees Stephen, the more her headscarf slides back on her head, and the more skin she reveals in her outfits. The movie equates romance and love with stereotypically Western clothing and customs: Sabah is so in love with Stephen, she takes a sip of wine at dinner. Gasp!