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A young Bangladeshi woman, Nazneen, arrives in 1980s London, leaving behind her beloved sister and home, for an arranged marriage and a new life. Trapped within the four walls of her flat in East London, and in a loveless marriage with the middle aged Chanu, she fears her soul is quietly dying. Her sister Hasina, meanwhile, through letters to Nazneen, tells of her carefree life back in Bangladesh, stumbling from one adventure to the next. Nazneen struggles to accept her lifestyle, and keeps her head down in spite of life's blows, but she soon discovers that life cannot be avoided - and is forced to confront it the day that the hotheaded young Karim comes knocking at her door. Written by
Sony Pictures Classics
All these years I dreamed of going home a big man. Only now, when it is finished for me, I realized what is important. As long as I have a family with me, I'm as strong as any man alive.
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From the opening scene of two young sisters chasing one another through a sunny field in Bangladesh (actually shot in India) to the very last poignant shot of the older sister as a mature woman looking back on her life and forward to the rest of it, I was captivated by this film. The performance of Tannishta Chatterjee as the wife is so touching that it is almost embarrassing to watch her, as if one is a Peeping Tom. Trapped in a tiny flat, and in an arranged marriage, with two teenage daughters, silently bearing the loss of her first born, a son, dreaming of her sister and family in Bangladesh and living for her sister's letters, she is detached from the world outside, alone, isolated - despite being in the midst of the Bengali community in Brick Lane, London. I accompanied her as she went out, crossed the concrete yard, did her shopping, straightened her headscarf, avoiding the white tattooed lady next door and the old Bengali widow, a debt-collector. The claustrophobic flat, piled high with daily necessities, the overwhelming presence of her husband, rather charmingly pompous, and brilliantly played by Satish Kaushik, the two depressed and bored daughters, is tangible, as is her husband's corpulent body when he rolls on top of her with wheezing breath in their depressingly small bed. Longing to earn some money so that she can fulfill her dream of returning home to visit her family, she takes on piece-work, sewing up jeans and glitzy tops, and finds herself attracted to and then having an affair with, the young British Muslim who brings the work every week. Sarah Gavron, the young British director, gets beneath the veil, beneath the skin and into the heart of this woman, delivering a portrait, not of a community, but of self-discovery and ultimately of love equalling the work of Satiyajit Ray. We should look forward to her next feature film.
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