Honeymoonish star Nour Al Ghandour sees Netflix hit as 'comforting escape' in tough times

Egyptian actress explains initial appeal of script and why movie has become a global success

Nour Al Ghandour's Honeymoonish is a Netflix sensation. Photo: Getty Images
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Nour Al Ghandour is having a global moment. The Egyptian actress has been making a name for herself in the region through her work on several Arabic television shows.

She's been in the social romantic thriller Juman; played a student in Doufaat Beirut, a series set in 1964 Lebanon exploring the intricacies of student life; and she's played Basma in Ya Boadoh, a drama where her liberal values are not accepted by her fiance's family.

Al Ghandour isn't afraid of taking on interesting or challenging roles. She is also committed to taking Arab TV shows forward by working across genres and scripts.

It's that same spirit that she applied to her latest project. Honeymoonish is an Arab romcom that has become an international hit on Netflix.

It is the first Arab film to reach number one on the streaming platform's weekly Top 10 chart of the most-watched non-English TV films, accumulating 14 million views in its second week of release.

While the genre in the Arab world still needs to find its own unique style of storytelling, it’s Al Ghandour’s on-screen charisma and chemistry with her Kuwaiti co-star Mahmoud Boushahri that has kept audiences hooked. The film is an interesting choice given that her work to date leaned more towards thrillers and melodrama.

“Firstly, the blend of romance and comedy [of the script] caught my attention,” Al Ghandour tells The National. “I sensed a beautiful energy within the story, and I believed that everyone would be able to connect with it deeply.”

Like the film’s director, Elie El Semaan, she feels the romcom genre is one the Arab world needs. “It’s important to offer something uplifting to audiences during these difficult times,” she says. “There is a collective need for lightheartedness and joy, which this film could fulfil.”

Honeymoonish has definitely filled that void for many audiences. The plot follows Hamad and Noor, who enter a marriage with ulterior motives, only to actually fall in love in the midst of myriad comical events. It has sparked the interest of an international audience.

The film has been on Netflix’s Top 10 list in more than 70 countries. That includes nations in the Middle East and audiences as far away as Canada and Nigeria.

It’s the genre’s combination of fairy tale romance within slightly bizarre comical scenarios that Al Ghandour believes people enjoy.

“Who doesn’t like romance, especially if there's comedy in it?” she says. “It's this delightful balance of love and laughter that makes romantic comedies so irresistible to audiences giving them a comforting escape.”

Al Ghandour’s character Noor is strong minded, ambitious and resourceful. Her life is turned upside down when her boyfriend marries someone else. She hatches a revenge plan on impulse and marries Hamad, having their honeymoon in the same place as her ex.

While she can see some similarities between the character and herself, she also says they are very different. “Noor is a blend of adventurous spirit and strength with a feisty edge,” Al Ghandour says. “Under her bold exterior, though, is a romantic at heart who is wants to find true love and connection.

“Her spontaneity is similar to mine but if I were in the same situation, I wouldn't react in the same way. I couldn't involve someone else in a plan for revenge against another person.”

The film sits within the framework of Arabic culture and tradition while presenting some farfetched scenarios, but Al Ghandour can still understand how it has regional and universal appeal.

Honeymoonish contributes to discussions on love and relationships through a lighthearted storyline,” she says. “It delves into themes of traditional marriages, complexities of love, mistaken identities and the power of second chances.

“It highlights the complexities of love and the potential for second chances. It gives the audience a humorous and relatable perspective on navigating relationships in today's world.”

While many romcoms can be light-hearted and entertaining, Al Ghandour also believes there are lessons audiences can learn after watching Honeymoonish.

“This film shows how love can emerge unexpectedly, often in unforeseen places and situations, with individuals we least expect,” she says. “It serves as a reminder to give chances and to trust the journey of finding love.”

Updated: May 19, 2024, 9:40 AM