It's lovely to see Rawan Mahdi again on the screen after last year's Netflix series The Cage, where her character was going through a troubling marriage. In The Exchange, Mahdi again plays a character with a troubling marriage, though this time, instead of visiting a marriage counselor, she ends up getting divorced from her husband. But there are other issues that this character must deal with, and, in the process, she has to grow into a confident, independent woman.
Since it's Mahdi, we find it easy to root for her character, Farida. The actor puts on an innocent face that exudes charm, nervousness, and - when the situation demands it - confidence. When you look at her, your instincts tell you to put your faith in her. It's impossible to believe that she can do anything wrong. And even if she does, you want to forgive her mistakes, no matter how big or small. A childlike purity leaks through Mahdi's figure, which is why her smallest gesture, like smoking, might at first seem shocking but later comes across as an act of rebellion. That doesn't look surprising, considering that both her characters - Rawan and Farida - exist in a patriarchal environment. They cannot continue to be meek or servile if they want to be heard. They have to put on a fight, no matter how big or small.
That's precisely what Farida does in The Exchange. In fact, the series opens with Farida getting divorced, as she is tired of a loveless marriage. What is it if not an act of rebellion? Society would prefer to see her trapped in an icy bond rather than view her as "the woman who split up with her husband." When she mentions to her parents that she is attending a charity event, they immediately tell her that it would be a good place to find another suitor. Farida is horrified and chides them for bringing up the topic of marriage even before letting the ink dry on her divorce papers.
Farida loves mathematics because she likes finding order from chaos. Well, her life has plunged into chaos. Her "friends," cousin, and ex-husband look down on her. Soon, her daughter, too, starts showing signs of detachment. Farida's financial condition is so bad she has to shift her daughter from a British private school to a public one. So when she begins to work at Kuwait Stock Exchange, you think the numbers would bring order to her chaotic life (she deals with great chaos in the last episode). Sure, but that process takes time because Farida, a woman, has to work in a male-dominated organization. Unlike the men, she has to prove her worth.
However, she is not alone. Remember the cousin mentioned above? Her name is Munira (Mona Hussain), and she also works at Kuwait Stock Exchange. Moreover, it's through her that Farida learns about the job. Farida applies at the same company for financial stability, but also because these cousin sisters are rivals. Their colorful, contrasting costumes become an extension of their rivalry and separate them from the crowd (of men). They always try to outsmart one another, though they are on the same page regarding the pomposity displayed by most of the men: They hate it. During the abovementioned charity party, two women on the stage engage in fencing - a visual that only underlines the competitive relationship between Farida and Munira (they fence with words).
Hussain is another delightful presence in the show. It's exciting to watch her and Mahdi go head-to-head, as well as share an affectionate moment here and there. Hussain carries herself with vulnerability and panache. Her character's exterior is all "I don't give a damn about others," but there is another person inside her that seeks validation. That side of her is glimpsed when her family members read an article about her in a newspaper. Hussain nails the beats with aplomb and, together with Mahdi, suffuses The Exchange with vibrancy and spark. Whenever these two actors are in the frame, there is no space for dullness.
The Exchange's core is located within Farida and Munira, and they bring the series to life. But the other characters are weak and severely uninteresting. The male co-workers merely sneer at Farida and Munira or provide different types of reactions (shocked, romantic, and favorable, to name a few). These flat characters are further pushed into oblivion by the performances of Hussain and Mahdi. The series is also terrible at handling kids. Almost every scene with child actors, like the one where some girls make fun of a classmate inside a washroom, reeks of directorial ineptitude. The same is visible during scenes where someone is punched or falls. You can spot the fakeness behind these actions. The Exchange has room for a lot of potent drama, which could have been derived from Farida and her daughter's messy relationship or her admirer at the stock company. But it skips over those possibilities and remains content with being undernourished. The Exchange has little to offer beyond Hussain and Mahdi.
Final Score- [6/10]
Reviewed by - Vikas Yadav
Follow @vikasonorous on Twitter
Publisher at Midgard Times
Get all latest content delivered to your email a few times a month.
Bringing Pop Culture News from Every Realm, Get All the Latest Movie, TV News, Reviews & Trailers
Got Any questions? Drop an email to [email protected]