Published on March 11th, 2024 | by Natalie Salvo

Four Daughters Film Review

Four Daughters Film Review Natalie Salvo

Summary: Four Daughters is an intriguing docudrama about a family left reeling from the disappearance of two of their children. This film ultimately poses a lot of questions about family, filial affection, and faith.


Sisterly love

The docudrama, “Four Daughters” does what it says on the tin by starring four powerful, young Tunisian women. But what this title does not capture is the story about another important lady in this piece. This is no less than the family matriarch, Olfa Hamrouni. The mother of these ladies plays a pivotal role in looking at how a family cope in the aftermath of traumatic incidents.

Kaouther Ben Hania writes and directs another Oscar-nominated film (the other being “The Man Who Sold His Skin.”) “Four Daughters” is a look at how two Tunisian girls became so radicalised by their faiths, they fled their home to join Islamic State. This film asks more questions than it answers, as the latter is nigh on impossible with two of the real-life women unable to participate in the project. It does attempt to answer the question of, “How could this happen?” and does so with varying degrees of success, as some of it feels quite rushed towards the end.

Hania gets around the two MIA stars by employing two actors to play and give voices to Ghofrane and Rahma Chikhaoui (Ichrak Matar and Nour Karoui, respectively). Hindi Sabri also appears in the scenes where it was too challenging for Hamrouni to play herself. What ensues is a mix of talking-head style interviews and reenactments from important parts of the family’s history. The latter includes a rebellious period where the two girls flirted with being teenage goths. On the flipside, Hamrouni remembers growing up before the Arab Spring when things like the niqab and hijab were outlawed.

It can be hard at times to follow the proceedings given the lines between the different styles of scenes is so blurred. This is not a linear film and the stories oscillate not just between the different styles but also through different moods and tones. There are lighter moments where the two younger actresses bond with their real-life sisters, Eya and Tayssir Chikhaoui, and at other moments things are utterly heart wrenching. It is especially devastating to see the newsreel footage where Hamrouni is very anguished and laying blame in Islamic leaders for her daughter’s steadfast shift in faith.

This film is a complex character study of its subjects and Hamrouni is one of the more intriguing characters. She can seem very traditional and conservative in her beliefs yet she lived quite a liberated life as a single mum. She is a disciplinarian and authoritative mother but she is also brimming with love for her girls. This is even though there is a scene where she says she didn’t want to have girl babies.

“Four Daughters” is a novel docudrama about five strong women and their respective traumas. Its presentation may not suit interpretation by all audiences but you cannot deny that this is a devastating story that needed to be told. This story can feel a tad voyeuristic at times but it is a very important one. “Four Daughters” ultimately plays out like an extended family therapy session as their despair over what happened is shared, as they attempt to exorcise some old demons.

About the Author'

Natalie is a Sydney-based writer and lover of all things music, food, photography comedy, art, theatre. You can find her digging in crates at good record stores.

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