NAGA Review – A strong start only to see the concept fizzle

By Amanda Guarragi
Published: December 8, 2023 (Last updated: January 25, 2024)
NAGA Review
NAGA | Image via Netflix


NAGA is a highly stylized film with an interesting premise that overstays its welcome.

Naga, which is now streaming on Netflix, takes place amid the desert dunes in Riyadh. Sarah (Adwa Bader) is a local Saudi girl, who escapes heartaches and the vengeance of a vigorous camel after discreetly sneaking out of her parent’s home for a romantic date that landed her astray. It’s a familiar story that women can relate to, especially as an adolescent trying to sneak out and see the person they have feelings for.

When we look at different cultures, it’s interesting to see how women are treated worldwide. Some have freedom and some are locked in a tower as they are passed from parents to husband. It’s hard to understand why certain cultures keep women as property instead of giving them agency. Women are only free once they have the choice to do what they want and marry who they want. Even if they don’t plan on getting married, they have that choice as well. They need to make their mistakes and choose their path on their own without any interference. The more you keep women sheltered, the more they will rebel.

The film is the definition of how far would you go to fulfill your desires as a teenager. This young girl wants to break free from her living situation to connect with someone who possibly understands her on a different level.

NAGA review and plot summary

When it comes to thrillers it’s hard to build the suspense when focusing on your style as a director. It can easily fall into generic territory if the director doesn’t add anything of his own or have a vision for the story. For director Meshal Al Jaser, he attempts to create a frantic atmosphere to match the anxiety of Sarah when she is alone this one night. On one hand, it works well to have the camera constantly moving as if someone is watching her and even to parallel her line of thinking. On the other hand, if the shaky cam isn’t done well it causes everything to appear messy, which is what ends up happening here.

Young Sarah was born into a family that sheltered her and wanted her to be the perfect daughter. The pressure to be the perfect anything can be incredibly damaging but will most definitely lead anyone to lash out. Like any teenager, Sarah wants to rebel and find her adventure to get out of this life that she feels trapped in. It doesn’t help that her father is an aggressive person and will yell any chance he gets. It’s interesting to see her relationship with her brother unfold because of the gender norms in place for their culture. She knows that he will never experience what she experienced as a young woman.

Due to her father being that controlling Sarah has had to lie quite a bit to get any form of freedom. She lies about going to the mall, going out with friends, and even lying that she has a boyfriend. She knows if her father knew about anything of her real life he would do something drastic.

There is always the one lie that will get anyone in trouble and unfortunately, it happened to Sarah. Sarah lied about going on a date with her boyfriend in the desert. She was supposed to be home by 10 pm so her father wouldn’t know. Sarah and her boyfriend drive off and enjoy their desert date. She agreed to take recreational drugs that would make her hallucinate and again, unfortunately for her, the drugs kicked in later. She needed to make sure that she wasn’t under the influence when she needed to be at home.

The date continued and Sarah’s boyfriend was driving to this desert camp. As he was driving he ended up hitting a camel. The man who was with the camel grabbed her boyfriend and dragged him to the desert camp right after they had to put the camel down because it was in pain. This is when the drugs kicked in for Sarah and she ended up at the camp with her boyfriend missing. At this camp, Sarah finds out many interesting things that her boyfriend had been keeping a secret and because she was hallucinating, she had no idea what was happening. She even ended up in the trunk of a car in the middle of the desert.

Is NAGA worth watching?

Unfortunately, Naga is not worth the watch because there’s nothing much to this story. The first half is interesting for the most part because of themes presented with womanhood, but once Sarah is alone, it drags out. There’s only so much you can do with one character being stuck in one location with nothing around them before a film loses all its suspense.

The relationship between Sarah and her boyfriend is an interesting one because of what’s uncovered and it doesn’t make sense considering Sarah has been lying to spend time with him and he has all of these secrets of his own. She went through all that only to be left alone.

The film has some great moments and at times there is some dark humor, but this sadly falls under style over substance. Al Jaser directed some moments well but the story ultimately suffered.

What did you think of NAGA? Comment below.

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