Hot Take: He Named Me Malala is an uninspiring, uninteresting documentary about an amazing, inspiring young woman who survived a harrowing ordeal standing up for young women’s rights to education. As a documentary, unlike the subject, it doesn’t take a stand, is completely disjointed and sucks all of the drama, heart and life out of a tale so full of those three things.
It’s hard to be critical of He Named Me Malala because the subject of the film and her family are so likable, her cause so just, what happened to her so brutal and her recovery so miraculous. However, when a documentary desperately pursues a narrative that just isn’t there, the result is a muddled mess. Both Malala and the documentary want you to believe she’s as ordinary as every other girl in the world. But she’s not and it’s an aspect of her story that should be celebrated and explored rather than sugar coated.
While there’s a supreme effort to provide evidence of Malala’s normalcy (she gets slightly below average grades, fights with her brothers, struggles to fit in and might think Roger Federer, Brad Pitt and some other athletes are attractive), there’s little to no effort to show Malala’s impact on her cause. Throughout the documentary, until the end of the film, she’s an observer. In the end, we get an impassioned, poignant speech from Malala but the film is so educational and drama-free, it lacks emotional attachment.
Pros (Can “Spoiler Free” Apply?)
- Malala’s Family
The influence of her father is evident and the normalcy of her relationships with her brothers are grounding. Her youngest brother has some very funny moments.
- The Cause of Women’s Right to Education
It’s hard to imagine there are places where women being educated is seen as a threat and unnecessary.
- Malala’s Speech
Her words are powerful and poignant.
- Ineffective Editing
There’s plenty of material for a compelling documentary. Unfortunately, it was told in such a way that failed to compel.
- The Animated Scenes
Some of the most substantial scenes are told with feathery animation.
- The Documentary Assumes Too Much
This would be a great supplement to anyone who knew the complete story of Malala. Unfortunately, not everyone knows the whole story. What’s worse is because of the lack of details there’s even a sprinkle of doubt to the complete authenticity of it all.