An interesting and accessible look into the female side of Bangladeshi culture in the western world
It has been over a year since Sofia's husband left for Bangladesh. Now he has returned home to their London flat with a new, much younger wife in tow and a baby on its way inside her. Her grown-up, English-born children cannot believe what they are seeing and encourage her to divorce her husband but Sofia is very aware of the cultural implications of doing that and does the correct thing to accept the woman into her home. However the pressures on her are great and the only solace that she has is in her friends all of whom are very aware of the limiting influence of their culture and religion.
Shown as part of a night on BBC2 given over to a Bangladeshi area of London, this film was interesting enough to attract the likes of Shabana Azmi to it. And you can see why, because the look at the Bangladeshi culture from the point of view of a woman is an interesting film. There is only a simple story to it but it works well enough because it is about Sofia as a person rather than just what is specifically happening to her during the film. As such it feels very short (it is only 60 minutes long) but it is still very engaging and interesting. Director MacDonald may not have the personal insight into the culture but she has a good eye for a scene and her director is good. Gupta's script is well written and seems to have a good understanding of the issues and cultural challenges and, although it isn't that wordy, the script forms a good backbone to the film.
To my untrained eye the biggest contribution is from Azmi herself. She is a good actress with subtlety who made it easy to understand her character. She is the key character in the film and her depth (even with a lack of long dialogue scenes) makes it work. The support cast is pretty good even if they perhaps lack the character given to Sofia; there are some famous faces in there but mainly the film belongs to Azmi and she doesn't disappoint at all.
Overall, a short but interesting film that made it easy to follow the story and characters despite me having zero knowledge of the world I was viewing. Direction and writing were both good but it is Azmi that makes it engaging and enjoyable. Not perfect but certainly interesting.
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