Review by Joseph Fayed
Starting college and moving to a new country are two of the biggest adjustments one can make to their life. Add in conflicting career goals and meeting your first love interest, and you have described nearly everyone in the 18-25 age demographic. In that way, Montréal Girls is a coming-of-age film from familiar territory.
Ramy, an aspiring poet, has arrived in Montreal to begin medical school. His cousin introduces him to hidden subcultures within the city, where he meets two women. Shortly thereafter, Ramy immerses himself in his poetry and begins to feel torn between two different lives: the one he wants and the one his parents would be most proud of.
Ramy's journey is not one of self-discovery, nor does he live vicariously through other characters. The film's biggest flaw is not distinguishing itself between the two. Very early on, Ramy grows disinterested with medicine, and it's revealed his natural talent has been poetry. Despite what appears to be a major conflict of interest from his father, Ramy is attempting to do both for most of the film. The core of the story is that Ramy has always known that being a poet is his calling. Ramy is written as having made up his mind well before he has to make a formal decision at the film's climax. Not much is built up between Ramy and those closest to him either, leaving two key character arcs uncertain.
The titular Montreal girls, Yaz and Desiree, serve nothing more than eye candy for Ramy. Every moment they are on screen is coated in Ramy flirting with at least one of them. Neither of them progress past being friends with benefits, and that is their whole arc. Of the two, Yaz is the one who has a moment in the film where she mentions trying to overcome her past, like Ramy is doing. This one line of dialogue, had the film not already been half over, could have provided some much-needed depth to her character. Ironically, Desiree has a forgettable argument with Ramy about not wanting to be used as filler for his and Yaz's potential fling. These subplots are eclipsed by Ramy's poetry and his struggles to admit his true passion, so their resolutions don't matter at the end.
Montréal Girls is a misnomer. They simply appear in the background, as our protagonist simply declares his dreams. There's nothing wrong with a character doing that, but it is misleading to those who thought Ramy, Yaz, or Desiree would have to go through the motions of carrying that out. Ramy's poetry and this screenplay also have something in common: they both lack much needed substance.
Montréal Girls is now playing in theaters and hits VOD on June 27.