The most interesting way to think about Theeb is to view it as a retelling of Lawrence of Arabia from the point of view of an Arab boy.
But that’s probably not the most accurate way to think about it.
Theeb (Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat) is about 10 years old, a native of an Arabian desert living with his extended family.
A white man shows up asking to see the old roman wells somewhere in the desert. Theeb’s adult brother Hussein (Hussein Salameh Al-Sweilhiyeen) gets hired as a guide for the blond stranger. Theeb secretly follows them into the desert.
After a few days, and a tempting mystery about the contents of the stranger’s box, Theeb and Hussein are told to go back home. Instead, Hussein suggests they follow the stranger.
Before long they’re sorry they didn’t return. The hinted-at political story emerges in the form of other men with guns, and lots of death ensues. And while our title character survives, he gets much closer to dead and injured men than he’d like.
The desert cinematography is beautiful, but what’s even better is the film’s sound design — echoes in the desert canyons reveal information about enemies, and the sound of buzzing flies around blood and death is more palpable than the makeup. (Dario Swade probably deserves the sound credit.)
Theeb can be a little unconventional and dry as we wait for the next development. It’s not the strongest film, but for showing an exotic world through a young boy’s eyes, it’s pretty good.