Abdulmohsen Aldhabaan’s psychological thriller The Matchmaker on Netflix brings us a story about a woman who was saved from her abusive marriage by a supernatural power and started using it to save other women stuck in similar situations. Starring Husam AlHarthi, Reem AlHabib, and Nour Alkhadra, the Arabic-language movie speaks about the decision to protest the injustices women face by forcing abusive men into servitude by a gruesome method.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘The Matchmaker’?
When a mild-mannered family man is smitten by a mysterious beauty at his office, he decides to follow her to a hotel in the middle of the desert in hopes of getting married to her. He soon starts realizing that there are some rather strange things at play in this hotel, and he decides to make an escape. However, the hotel authorities, especially the matchmaker lady, won’t let that happen.
Who Is Aliaa?
In the voiceover, a very old woman is heard telling the tale of Aliaa, a young woman who got married to a man who liked her very much, but soon the torture and ill-treatment started. Aliaa was unable to quietly endure any more of the man’s beatings, and she desperately begged anyone who listened to help her. When everyone turned a deaf ear, there was something that heard her woes—an ear in the desert that promised to help her, which we witnessed as a man burned to death, and one more came and replaced him. This man had no choice but to act servile towards Aliaa, and the power that’d helped her was called Siba, the Hidden One. From the ashes of the man who burned to death, the new man gathered the ring he’d been wearing along with the ashes to be kept in an ornate jar, and Aliaa now wanted to help every other woman who’d suffered a similar fate at the hands of men.
The Mild-Mannered IT Guy
Tarek works for a company in the IT department, and he’s more-or-less an afterthought at home, with his wife Reema and their daughter finishing up dinner before he arrives and talking amongst themselves, too busy to respond to his call. Reema doesn’t consider his voice or presence too important, and often, at night, Tarek climbs to the roof of his home to peek at the happy couple at the next flat and watch them dance. At work, he suddenly meets an intern named Salma and starts spending more of his time peeking to watch her work. He doesn’t like going home early. Instead, he listens to podcasts by life coaches where they motivate their audience about how men should be the leaders of the world and take action.
Tarek is upset upon watching the superior Abu Mouath place a hand on Salma’s neck and then follow her downstairs to the staircase to borrow a cigarette from her. He warns her to stay away from Abu, adding that he’s a harasser. Salma is cold for most of the conversation, says she’s aware of Abu, and promptly leaves. The next day, Tarek watches Salma place a box at Abu’s office and leave, and he learns moments later that she’s resigned, which makes him temporarily numb.
How Does Tarek End Up In The Desert?
Upon learning that the one woman with whom he had become infatuated has suddenly quit, he becomes wild for a moment and steals the box that Salma had left for Abu and brings it to his office. This box has a tablet that plays a video where he’s invited to get married to the woman of his dreams in a completely private ceremony, and he’s guaranteed satisfaction. Next thing we know, Tarek is on a plane heading somewhere, and he lands at what looks like a fancy hotel in the middle of the desert, but from the get-go, things look odd. The receptionist asks Tarek to wear the outfit that’ll be provided to him, not to step out after the ceremony is over to ensure his own safety, and thirdly, to press 0 in his room’s telephone if he might need anything. Interestingly, the receptionist has the strange mark that the man who became Aliaa’s husband carried on his cheek.
Upon being taken to the room, Tarek sleeps for a while and then opens the balcony door to step out of the room and into the desert with massive rocky hills around him, realizing his phone has no signal. Another hotel worker arrives to hand him a set of clothes and asks Tarek to use the headscarf to cover his face to ensure his own privacy.
The Stay At The Hotel
There’s yet another knock at the door, and upon opening it, Tarek finds the same gaunt and pallid-faced man who’d become Aliaa’s servant, and this must’ve been ages ago because the old woman narrating the story had said this is the tale her grandmother used to tell them. Yet, this abnormal-looking man with a dead expression leads Tarek down a dungeon and inside a room where the woman we’d been introduced to as Aliaa sits. Here, she’s known as the Matchmaker, and after a few jokes, she tells Tarek that there’s a community feeling in here, so every guest is encouraged to attend the other’s marriage ceremonies, as one woman walks in and is given a box by the Matchmaker’s helper, Saad. He then hands Tarek a box, and from inside this ornate box that looks a lot like the purse Salma used to carry, Tarek fishes out a ring that’s identical to the one Saad had gathered from the ashes of Aliaa’s dead husband. When asked if he can meet his bride, the Matchmaker preaches patience and asks Saad to take Tarek back to his room so he can rest up.
The Wedding Ceremony
In his room, Tarek gets a letter inviting him to that night’s marriage ceremony, and he attends the wedding where several men with their faces covered in black scarves are playing instruments while many other men wearing white like him are waiting on the cushions. These are the other guests who’ve come to get married to the women of their dreams. While sitting and looking around, Tarek watches as another guest walks up to his table and sits on the other cushion, and they get to talking. The guest reassures Tarek that this is a totally different world and that they’ll provide the dream women for the men who’ve come here, and that all of his friends who attended the wedding have gone back. Just then, the first guest is seen walking out, leading his bride on camelback, and so far, things look alright.
However, at the peak of the mountains, the Matchmaker and a host of other women stand and put binoculars to their eyes and witness something, as the screams of a man can be heard. Among the women, there’s Salma, the mysterious beauty for whom Tarek abandoned his family and came to this unknown place. Inside his room, Tarek listens to the man’s screams and tries the reception, but the phone doesn’t work, the balcony door has been locked, and the only way is to go outside. The moment he opens his room’s main door, he spots a few people coming in, including the woman who’d just gotten married, followed by her groom and a few other men in red tunics.
For the rest of the night, Tarek has horrible nightmares. He promises an old man who claims to be Salma’s father that he will bring his daughter back and then sets out on a long journey until he reaches a settlement where a young girl asks him to fill a glass with water from a well. The moment Tarek hands her the filled glass, she dips a finger, turns it into blood, and takes it inside. Upon following her, Tarek witnesses an extremely old couple repeating the same lines about Aliaa again and again. He jolts awake and sighs a deep sigh of relief when he finds himself in his own bed back in the city and then chooses to go sneak on the happy couple next door. However, the happy couple stares back at him, and Tarek’s nightmare finally ends, but he’s covered in a cold sweat. Also, the decorative ring that he’d been given won’t come off his ring finger, and the finger is slowly darkening.
In the morning, the guest who’d spoken to Tarek comes into his room and tells him that something is wrong with this place, and they need to leave the next day. Tarek insists that they need to escape this very day lest they’re trapped here, but the guest argues that it’s his wedding night tonight. Tarek makes him see the reason that Mona, the woman the guest has been promised, might not even exist, and they need to run. The man agrees to meet Tarek in the lobby in an hour, but when it’s time to leave, he’s not there. Tarek goes back to hear the man laughing from inside his room, and he introduces Tarek to Mona, saying the hotel authority has let them meet, so he’ll be getting married today. Not wanting to hang back, Tarek demands to leave and gets in a car, and moments later, Saad gets in the driver’s seat but proceeds to tase him. By the time Tarek wakes up, he’s sitting on the couch under the open sky, and the wedding is underway. He watches the guest walk his bride, Mona, on camelback as his ring finger turns black.
Desperate to escape this hellish place, Tarek hides in the bushes as the musicians board trucks to head to a second location and ambushes one of them to steal his clothes. They arrive in the middle of the desert, and that night’s bride stands in the center as the groom is pushed and shoved toward her while two other men light him on fire. As the guest burns to death, Tarek, wearing the musicians’ costume with just his eyes visible, watches with an expression of pure horror. As the replacement for the guest walks into the scene and stands next to the bride, the man who had pleaded with Tarek to bring Salma back tases him again.
Tarek finds himself bound to the chair and sitting before the Matchmaker, who says he’s much too impatient, and after she and Saad leave, Salma walks into the room and slaps him. She realizes this isn’t the man she’d targeted while he curses at her. Tarek finds himself in his bed, unable to move, as Salma speaks to the Matchmaker. She questions the matriarch’s decisions and how she’s stripped all mercy from the place, and although Salma feels for her, she can’t condone how the leader keeps the men as slaves. A ritual of arranging ashes and sand is carried out elsewhere, and Salma leaves the dungeon in the Matchmaker’s garb and proceeds to remove that cursed ring from Tarek’s finger, relieving the blackening, and as he sits back up, his double lies dead.
‘The Matchmaker’ Ending Explained – What Did Salma Do In The End?
We witness the Matchmaker, aka Aliaa’s chamber, burn down as Salma tells Aliaa in voiceover not to be mad at the girl because of her actions. She thanks the matriarch for all the support she’d shown Salma when she’d come to her in need of help, and she believes she can carry forward Aliaa’s teachings in a special way. Meanwhile, Aliaa is seen sitting at the hut where Tarek had spotted the little girl and the elderly couple as Saad pours the former Matchmaker tea. All the men who’d been held captive in the hotel are seen walking away into the distance as Salma watches from the top of a hill. Tarek goes home, and his wife and daughter stop their game and look at him, and he wishes to join his family in the game.
The Matchmaker is the outcry of every woman who’s been ill-treated and wants to escape the cruelties of patriarchy, and Aliaa acts as the mouthpiece of these women. By some supernatural miracle, she’d found the blessings of a power that allowed her to burn her abusive husband to death and get, in return, a servile and submissive version of the same man. However, the power went to her head, and she started killing every man who’d come to the hotel in hopes of finding a bride and keeping their doubles as servants. By burning down Aliaa’s chamber, Salma broke the spell the men had been placed under, and they started walking back to their homes. She ensured that these refined and reborn men could use this goodness to be good husbands, fathers, and brothers in their homes instead of being soulless slaves to a matriarch. Thus, Tarek went back home, and the man who’d never felt like being a part of the family wanted to play with his wife and daughter because he was a changed man now, like everyone who was freed.