In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a young girl enters her school's Koran recitation contest so she can use the prize money to buy a bicycle—even though riding a bike in public is hardly an appropriate activity for a devout Muslim girl. Writer-director Haifaa Al-Mansour's first feature sneaks up on you: It begins in a leisurely, diffident manner, almost drably understated in its slice-of-Saudi-life way, as it matter of factly lays out the challenges of growing up female in that part of the world. But Al-Mansour builds her story carefully, mainly through the subtly luminous performances of young Waad Mohammed in the title role and Reem Abdullah as her mother. The movie ends on a highly emotional note that might easily have tipped over into bathos. But Al-Mansour knows her stuff—she earns her emotion honestly.