Adventure is good for the soul of both children and adults; it gives them a chance to test their wings and determine their values. In 1972 Julie (Kate Winslett), a free-spirited single mother, leaves London and her poet boyfriend and heads off for Marrakech with six-year-old Lucy (Carrie Mullan) and eight-year-old Bea (Bella Riza). The exotic city is awash with new sights and tantalizing possibilities. While Julie tries to support her family by selling handmaid dolls, the prostitutes at the hotel where she lives steal her clothing from the laundry.

Her spirits perk up when she meets Bilal (Said Taghmaoui), a street acrobat. He becomes her lover and surrogate father to her two young daughters. When their money runs out, he takes them to his remote mountain village, but the elders harass him about his neglected wife who lives there. Returning to Marrakech, Julie and her daughters are taken in by Santoni (Pierre Clementi), a European with a spacious villa. There Bea, who wants a more normal life, gets what she desires. Julie visits a Sufi master in Algiers who gives her something quite different from what she expects. And Bilal eventually returns into their lives with the ultimate act of selfless love and generosity.

Based on a book by Esther Freud, which has been adapted for the screen by Billie MacKinnon, Hideous Kinky (the term refers to a word game played by the girls) is a cross-cultural gem that is spiked with superb performances, colorful characters, and one of the great closing sequences in recent memory. For all of the characters, adventure is a great teacher bestowing extravagant gifts memorable enough to last a lifetime. Gillies MacKinnon (Small Faces, Trojan Eddie) directs this sense-luscious drama with great flair.