Variety‘s Jay Weissberg says:
Miguel Gomes’ devotees will delight in how “Arabian Nights” takes structural elements from “Our Beloved Month of August” as well as “Tabu” and stretches them even further: Using Scheherazade as the thread to bring together so many tales was a splendid move, allowing for all sorts of nonfiction and fiction stories to be woven together in a tapestry of frustration, melancholy and burlesque. Choosing Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s regular d.p. Sayombhu Mukdeeprom to lense the opus further cements Gomes’ reputation among his auteurist followers (though visual similarities are few).
It appears Gomes himself, at least at the start, wasn’t sure how everything could fall into place. Intercutting the laid-off shipyard workers with discussions of a plague of wasps devastating the country’s beehives, he admits (perhaps disingenuously) that he doesn’t know how they connect, but he knows they must. Auds even marginally aware of Portugal’s economic plight can deduce that the wasps are like the European financial bodies, destroying indigenous industry.
From there he introduces Scheherazade (Crista Alfaiate), the classic storyteller who keeps one step ahead of her husband the sultan’s murderous impulses by telling a different tale each night, making him so eager to hear more that he allows her to live another day…