Layla Majnun

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Layla Majnun Movie Poster Image
Romance about star-crossed lovers has some violence.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 119 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

True love can sometimes conquer adversity. Love is a sickness but the beloved is the remedy. Love doesn't need to be forgiven.

Positive Role Models

Layla is a loyal and dutiful daughter who struggles to keep a promise she made. Samir is a patient suitor, kind, generous, poetic, and brave.


A drowned body is washed up on a beach. A girl threatens suicide. A man walks into the desert when he loses the woman he loves. A man locks his niece in his home to keep her from visiting her boyfriend. A gang beats up two people. A gunshot leads to death. The gang members tie two people together and throw them off a bridge.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Layla Majnun is a dramatic romance in Indonesian and Azerbaijani (with English subtitles) about finding true love, family obligations, arranged marriages, women's rights in a religious world, and how to stay true to oneself. These are all issues that could be of interest to mature teens even as much of the movie is focused on obligations that stem from old-world traditions. Financial pressures and debt are subjects, too. A drowned body is found on a beach. Suicide is mentioned and so is sacrifice in the name of family. A controlling suitor resorts to violence. Both murder and attempted murder ensue.

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What's the story?

We learn early in LAYLA MAJNUN that it's not unusual for an Indonesian girl who's in love with one man to commit suicide if her family forces an arranged a marriage to another. Against that cultural setting we meet Layla (Acha Septrias), named for the doomed character of a legendary poem referenced in the title, a bright and dedicated teacher, writer, and academic. She and her mother are beholden to a cruel and hard-drinking uncle, who took them in and paid her dead father's debts. Now he wants her to marry Ibnun (Baim Wong), the domineering son of a wealthy and powerful man. She realizes a lifelong dream to travel when she accepts a temporary lecturer position in Azerbaijan. Then, fearing consequences for her mother if she doesn't accept the proposal, Layla agrees to marry Ibnun, but only after her trip to Azerbaijan. Life is freer in Azerbaijan, where a graduate student named Samir (Reza Rahadian) has been touting her book and lobbying to bring her to his university to teach. He's soulful, romantic, and gentle, everything that Ibnun is not, and although Layla resists Samir's advances mightily out of duty to her mother and the promise she made, she falls for him hard. Ibnun gets wind of the rival. Who will Layla marry?

Is it any good?

Fans of romantic movies will find much to enjoy here. Two riveting lead actors, Rahadian and Septrias, draw the audience into their world so fully that even in fantasy scenes portraying the two as star-crossed lovers from a 12th century fiction, our connection with them and their plight never wavers. Layla Majnun is a sweeping romance that feels contemporary and also timeless. Stunning capital city Baku is a character in this drama, skillfully depicted by director Monty Tiwa. He uses its beauty and dignity, its age and modernity, to help the audience understand a different culture but also to underscore the universality of love.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way that arranged marriage is depicted here. When Layla suggests to her uncle that she has a choice about who she wants to marry, do you think that's really true? Why or why not?

  • How do you think cultures that impose arranged marriages benefit from the practice? Do you think the practice is a way to control family wealth, or improve someone's financial and social status by marrying up?

  • What do you think are some downsides of arranged marriage?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romantic movies

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