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A loving portrait of a Muslim woman
Olivia Temple14 November 2007
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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The best thing of its kind since Pather Panchali
robert-temple-18 November 2007
This is a masterpiece of the first rank, as if Satyajit Ray had come back from the dead to do one final great work, and yet the director is a young English girl named Sarah Gavron, who will obviously go from triumph to triumph in the future. The film, the director, the script writer, the cinematographer, the editor, and the superb musical score all deserve Oscars. But most of all, so do Tannishtha Chatterjee as Best Actress and Satish Kaushik who plays her husband as Best Actor. This is one of the most devastatingly tragic and emotional films in years. My wife and I saw it in a private screening tonight, and most people were in tears. Sarah Gavron and Monica Ali the novelist both spoke about the crazy media coverage. The film has been covered by the papers in a dishonest fashion, so alarming that Prince Charles pulled out of attending the premiere. This film is the story of a woman trapped in her life, trapped in her culture, and trapped in an arranged marriage. In the beginning her husband seems to be something of monster, but by the end of the film we see that despite all of his failings, he is a truly noble character. The incredible irony is that Tannishtha Chatterjee, who by her astonishing ability and delicate sensitivity has done more to explain Muslim women to us than anyone I can think of, is herself a Hindu from West Bengal. When I told Monica Ali afterwards that this film would do more for cross-cultural understanding than anything else, she was pleased but looked doubtful. After all, the lives of the people making the film were threatened by a small minority of fanatics ('five men in a sweet shop in Brick Lane' was how it started, growing to seventy malcontents) when they were filming on location in London, and there is a false and hypocritical media storm raging around the film at the moment. It makes a good cheap headline. But we need to forget about all of that and concentrate on what this film really is: a human document of such raw honesty and true feeling that it is like a cry from the hearts of all who have suffered at any time and in any place in our troubled world. People talk about 'understanding', but how are we to achieve it? By making and viewing such films as this, I would suggest. And then there is the endless problem of women being oppressed. If you are not a woman and want to know what that is like, just watch this. The saddest thing of all is the collapse of dreams, and the story is about how the different characters bear the respective collapses of their most cherished ones and try to go on, and do.
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Closely observed lives
Cliff Hanley8 November 2007
This adaptation of Monica Ali's best-selling novel follows the conflicts in the little world of Nazneen, a Bangladeshi girl who leaves behind happy days playing with her sister round their village for an arranged marriage in 1980s London. At first she is almost living a life of purda within the walls of her East London council flat with her oafish middle-aged husband, fearing her life is over. Director Gavron balances intimate moments against the increasingly tense atmosphere in Brick Lane as the tightly knit community reacts to the events of 11 September 2001, and public attitudes towards Moslems or anyone who just looks 'different' afterwards. To emphasise the smallness of this community and of the family within it, many of the shots are close-up or taken through gauze, hanging clothes or glass; the camera-work is practically all steadycam, sharing rooms, balconies and stairwells with the protagonists. Struggling to play the 'good wife', Nazneen one day discovers a measure of independence in a borrowed sewing machine, which allows her to fill some of the gaps made by her husband's erratic employment; through this she collides with life again, as the clothing delivery lad Karim knocks at her door. One night, husband and wife are in front of the TV as 'Brief Encounter' is showing. On the other hand, we could just be seeing into Nazneen's head as she struggles to cope with her dilemma. As time passes, it becomes obvious that no decision she makes will be simple and easy, especially as her well-meaning but foolish husband gradually reveals himself to be a philosopher, and a man who feels pain. It's a closely observed film about closely observed lives, and probably will repay repeat viewings.
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Rich Performances and Gorgeous Cinematography in Brick Lane
reelinspiration4 August 2008
Everyday Nazneen scrubs her foggy window pane trying to peer out of her dingy Brick Lane flat. She longs to return to her childhood home of Bangladeshi where she and her sister ran free through the lush woods before her father forced her to marry an older man living abroad.

Nazneen has been raised not to question her fate, so she does her best to fulfill her duty to her husband and family.Her husband, Chanu, (Satish Kaushik) does not come off as a stereotypical tyrant but a chubby optimist who prides himself in being a western "educated man." He has instructed his daughters to assimilate into Western culture, yet expects to be treated as undisputed ruler of the household. This irony is not lost on their teenage daughter, Shahana, who disrupts the household by challenging her father. (Naeema Begum is pitch perfect as the average "mouthy" teen.) Nasneen does her best to shield (literally) her daughter from her father's retaliation. But the girls have no role model in their submissive mother. Nasneen's only connection with the outside world is what her husband shares with her. Unfortunately, he has absolutely no insight into the needs of his wife or daughters.

Nazneen finally decides to facilitate their trip back to her homeland herself by taking in sewing. The handsome young man (Christopher Simpson) who delivers the garments cracks open a window to the world. Director Sarah Gavron shows Nazneen's awakening through the subtle complexity of Tannishtha Chatterjee's performance.

When 9/11 ignites racial tension in the diverse neighborhoods of Britain, Nazneen must ask herself, "What is my true home?" Nazneen finds that home is where you find your strength.

Don't miss the gorgeous cinematography while it's still on the big screen. BRICK LANE is one of the best films of the summer.

Movie Blessings! Jana Segal reelinspiration dot blogspot dot com
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I will now run out and buy the book!
kimmerie-16 August 2008
My sister, one of my best sources for literature that doesn't disappoint, told me that Brick Lane was one of her all time favorite books. I didn't get to it, but I did get to the movie.

After cinematically traveling to India via "Before the Rains" a couple of weeks ago, Brick Lane took me to Bangledesh. With continuous flashbacks to her home country, I followed Nazneem,a young Bangladeshi woman to the London ghetto in the early 1980's.

As was common in her culture, Nazneem left home at age sixteen to pursue an arranged marriage She has two daughters, who we meet as young teens, one of whom is as rebellious and difficult as any American teenager we've known (or been). Nazneem is dreadfully unhappy in her new life partly because she misses her sister back home. The other reasons have something to do with never having lived life on her own terms, losing her first born and a touch of early mother loss, too.

Let's just say that the different manifestations of love are examined in Brick Lane through the experience of Nazneem. How her heart opens and how she matures is unexpected. Without giving too much away, there is a drop dead gorgeous character named Karim who has something to do with it. Like a good book, and I suspect this is one, there are delicious surprises. Characters endear us in the end that we couldn't stand at first and others we admire, fall from grace. The story is rich.

So, I'll be getting my copy of Brick Lane by Monica Ali and will let you know how it measures up to this beautiful movie.

Weeks can go by without a worthwhile movie to see, but to have Before the Rains and Brick Lane in the same month. Now, that's a gift.
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A little jewel
selffamily13 June 2009
Before I go any further - I have not read the book. I might now do so, however, as I believe with books and movies, it's usually best to see the film first. So much has to be lost when one transfers a story to screen, that the book is almost always an enriching experience.

I fell over this almost in error at my local DVD store, so I did not see it on a big screen, which I would have liked. quite apart from the scenery and photography, it might have helped to be able to see the sub titles! There weren't that many of those, not enough to spoil the story.

I felt that the early childhood scenes, in their innocence and sudden suicide of the mother, then leading to the point where the father could not keep both daughters at home and so arranged the marriage (my interpretation) to this "educated man" in England, were heartbreaking in retrospect, and there was quite a bit of yearning and retrospection for the poor bride. We met her some astonishing 17 years later, with her teenage daughter and younger child, not sure how old she was. They were not afraid of life, whereas their mother seemed to be virtually housebound from terror. When she met the neighbour who lent/gave the sewing machine to her, it was an enormously liberating experience for her and she began to think and act differently. The young man who was the catalyst in the change for the family, could have had two heads, she was so desperate for the fun and affection that she believed her sister to be experiencing. Her husband, a bumbling poor soul, whom life constantly overlooked was unable to cope with his daughter's puberty let alone the mounting reaction to 9/11. He became more lovable as the film progressed, obviously to both Nazeem and myself.

The usurer who tried to blackmail Nazeem into extra payments, the neighbour and the others with small parts in the story were all as exquisitely drawn as the main characters. Nazeem began to understand that her life was her reality and when she held her husband's hand on the way home from the Bengal Tigers' meeting, one had a real sense of her maturity. There is so much more to this story than the top layer. I loved so many aspects of it - the acting, the photography, the story. Maybe it was simplified almost beyond belief, but that is normal. I found it moving, educational and hugely enjoyable. I shall recommend it.
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An impressive, sensitive message for many a cornered soul!
gurdeep-hamilton29 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Contains very mild spoilers. The characters in Brick Lane appear boxed into a confined, restricting little world (aren't we all...?). The film's main character is a housewife, Nazneen (played by Tannistha Chatterjee), who habitually recalls childhood memories of green, open spaces and rural life in Bangladesh and shares her private sadness with the viewer that her soul is denied a sense of freedom. Tensions, frustrations and puzzlement about life and where it is going has as it's main back-drop, the interior of a small East London flat.

Nazneen's proud, precise, well-read husband is not immediately endearing (in what appears to be a loveless marriage), but subsequently reveals his hidden depths on two occasions in particular; one concerning his Faith (in the presence of his community), in the wake of '9/11' (2001); the other concerning a significant choice about his family's future.

Nazneen's sister is never far from her thoughts and the arrival of her letters from Bangladesh have the effect of sustaining Nazneen in the belief that her sister has found love and happiness. Nazneen's only expression of real defiance directed at her husband concerns one of the letters. The correspondence between the sisters remarks on how we tend to put the reader's feelings before our own, when posting a little piece of our world overseas.

The film explores how one discovers a hidden self and qualities that duty, force of habit, the day-to-day, and the expectations of others, forces us to deny and conceal - ultimately to our own personal loss, leaving our relationships with those we love the poorer for it.

One character in the film is a corrupt elder in the community described as a 'userer' (loan shark!). She supplies a fascinating, malevolent contribution - until Nazneen, waking up to her own inner strengths, challenges her.

The film can perhaps best be summarised by the words of Nazneen's husband who later concludes admiringly that the woman he married (who has lived in his shadow some twenty years), was not a 'girl from the village'; implying that Nazneen's simple rural roots belied her wit and savvy. Another important point that should not be lost, is that Nazneen's place (for the most part denied her), in shaping the family's destiny influences their young daughter's lives; growing up essentially in two cultures.

Expect a small, compelling cast; admirably directed, scripted and acted throughout. A brave, beautiful film that handled sensitive issues with sensitivity, brought a tear to the eye...and a measure of hope.
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Many beautiful touches, but flawed
Chris_Docker12 March 2008
As I started watching Brick Lane my heart soared. The beauty of its appreciation of nature (Bangladeshi scenes from the lead character's memory) reminded me of the masterpieces of Deepa Mehta if not of Satyajit Ray. It tells of a young girl whose father marries her off to an educated Bangladeshi back in London. Displaced from her homeland, her heart is full of secret sorrow until she finds herself attracted to a man younger than her husband and much closer to her own age. From that point she begins much soul searching, examining her own identity and place in the world.

"For us," says director Sarah Gavron, "'Brick Lane' as a title symbolises a sanctuary to successive waves of immigrants searching for home. That search, rather than the bricks and mortar of the street, is at the heart of the story." I admit that her description helps me to have a better view of the film but I wish it had been more apparent in the footage.

A beautiful love story develops, with a subplot about resisting Islamic extremism. Yet I soon felt as if I were watching a kind of updated Jane Austen novel where the Brick Lane (East London) Bangladeshi community were used simply to provide a fresh plot device.

I read some of the adverse comments from Brick Lane spokespeople that plagued the film's opening. I didn't feel I could relate to them. I found nothing offensive in the film. Except it seemed to me somehow a curiously British portrayal of Bangladeshis. There is plenty of reference to Bangladeshi or Muslim issues but authenticity seems a little uneven. Translation of a prayer is touching. But a reference to the Muslims that died in Partition (at the end of colonial rule) seems less heartfelt. The young daughter, who has only ever known British ways, is a very convincing character on the other hand. I am tempted to wish that the original prize-winning writer had focused her efforts more on the daughter, someone much closer to her own diaspora experience.

As a film it succeeds. Exquisite photography and bundles of unarticulated emotion sweep us along at a heady pace. As a glimpse of another culture it is on less secure ground. The people claiming it misrepresented them may not have been statistically significant but why did it stir up so much trouble? Consider this. When Gurinder Chadha made Bride and Prejudice, she focused on the positive qualities of the two protagonists and cultures (India and America). When Deepa Meetha made Water, she focused on the positive strengths of the women on whose behalf the film was (in part) a protest. Sarah Gavron's heroine in Brick Lane, on the other hand, is almost an entirely a passive recipient of circumstance. We suspect she is a lovely person, but it needs more than some idyllic childhood memories of running through paddy fields to pinpoint the beauty within her. Much as the director's comment gives a higher purpose and reading to the film, it is not so obvious from viewing alone. Her comment about a sanctuary is a very spiritual one - perhaps even capable of uniting Muslims and Jews one day. But although her protagonist's husband does make reference to it at a Muslim meeting it could too easily be missed. Sadly, but not surprisingly, some audiences have reacted to the extremely personal (but more negative) images of her trapped and isolated woman.

For a film with a serious intent, Brick Lane stops short at quality entertainment. Compare Mira Nair's epic The Namesake, which asks questions about identity and answers them. Or the way Satyajit Ray looks at home and identity through simple observation If Sarah Gavron had wanted to accomplish anything as grand as the search for sanctuary in a foreign land, her scope needed to be more ambitious.
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Fresh and feminine
rogerdarlington25 November 2007
So many British films are costume dramas or gangster movies that it's a real pleasure to see a work that focuses on the modern and very real challenges of an immigrant community. Where "East Is East" dealt with a Pakistani family and "Bend It Like Beckham" had an Indian focus, "Brick Lane" - based on the Booker-nominated novel by Monica Ali - addresses the life of a teenage girl from a village in Bangladesh (scenes actually shot in a beautiful-looking India) who is married off to a much older compatriot living in the eponymous area of east London.

So much is fresh and feminine here: most of the roles are for women and newcomer Tannishta Chatterjee, as the central character Nazneen, is excellent, often conveying so much simply with her eyes; Sarah Gavron is assured in her first directing role; the writing credits go to Ali herself and two other women; while the original score comes from Jocelyn Pook and the haunting singing from Natacha Atlas. This is a measured and intimate work that is more about different types of love and religion than it is about the Bangaleshi community itself.
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Fizzling relationships in London's Bangladeshi community
Chris Knipp24 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Sarah Gavron's movie brings Monica Ali's popular novel about Bangladeshis in London to the screen, which bears comparison with Mira Nair's recent screened novel of an Indian family in America, The Namesake. Less fun, more limited in focus, Brick Lane nonetheless adds interesting new notes with its emphasis on the young arranged bride. Nazneen Ahmed (lovely, slightly mysterious Tannishtha Chatterjee) is seventeen when married off to Chanu Ahmed (the interesting Satish Kaushik). He is not only older, fat, and unattractive, but a rather silly man. He pretends to be an intellectual like Ashoke (Irfan Khan) of The Namesake, but if he is, he can't parlay his love of Proust and David Hume into a good job. Eventually he becomes a bus driver, but not before he has gotten embroiled with a woman usurer in the community to buy a computer. Meanwhile Nazneen starts sewing to make money, and the young Bangladeshi man who runs the factory, Karim (Christopher Simpson), has an affair with her.

2001 comes and Karim quickly turns militant and Islamic, while Chanu Ahmed comes through as more complex than we might have realized. He's a suffering mensch, a man who just can't fit in, and therefore also someone who doesn't flow with the prejudices or confusions of the crowd; and hence it's he who makes a strong little speech deflating the local Bangladeshis' claim to Islam historically as something that necessarily unites them. Of course Chanu Ahmed is also out of touch with his wife and their two girls (they've been in London for twenty years now, though the time is a little too vaguely telescoped). When the husband/father gets ready to return to Bangladesh after two decades, wife and daughters simply refuse to go. To save face he announces that he's decided they will follow later. Chanu Ahmed tells his wife he simply cannot stay, and she replies that England is her home now--as her young lover Karim told her earlier. But she has told Karim that she doesn't want to marry him.

The dialogue is on this simple level. What's subtle in Brick Lane is the way changes in characters slowly unfold over time. But though Nazneed is elegant and enigmatic and Chanu Ahmed acquires an appeal that is far more than skin deep, characters lack depth due to the not-so-interesting lines they're provided with. Family saga though this may be, it fails to pass the torch on to the children as The Namesake does, and all the relationships just seem to fizzle out. There's no clear hint of how they will end up.

If one thinks of the brilliant mid-Eighties Stephen Frears-Hanif Kureishi collaboration about Pakistanis in London My Beautiful Laundrette, with its novelistically complex characters and situations, one realizes that despite the soulfulness of Brick Road's heroine and the surprising complexity of her unattractive mate--and the droll humor and multi-generational scope of The Namesake--neither of these films condensing novels has writing as fine and original and rich as Kureishi's.

The wife of Brick Lane is a lovely woman, but her correspondence relationship with her sister back home seems an unfortunate casualty of the screen adaptation--it's never quite clear what all the flashbacks to their shared childhood are meant to mean in adult terms or why that relationship too, like the others, fizzles out. The interest of this new film remains its focus on the obvious possibility that though an arranged marriage may lead to propagation, it may never move on to understanding, and that an old man may remain unattractive. The husband goes home only because all his opetions have died. But that is a real outcome we don't often get to see.

Seen in London November 21, 2007. U.S. release as yet unscheduled.
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A remarkable film
arshadfilms19 March 2008
From the rice fields in the opening scene to the claustrophobic Brick Lane flat, the powerful cinematography sucks you into this masterfully realized film production. I think Sarah Gavron has given life to an otherwise ordinary novel. The Bangladeshi community was apparently up in arms against the production.However, Mz Gavron has created a film that will convert even the toughest and most immovable heart of "brick" into "mud under your feet". The characters are unforgettable and the acting flawless. Tannishtha Chetterjee delivers a winning performance and carries the film by herself. Satish Kaushik tries to stay true to the caricature of a character that Monica Ali created in her novel but seems to have similar unidimensional personality problems to the character of "George" in "East is East". Overall the film is moving and sensitive. It is a delicious voyeuristic window into the life of an immigrant family and the havoc that is created in the family dynamic and the traditional power structure. You will never walk by another sari-clad woman the same way. Beautiful film. Bravo!
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a ten
terinagrossman10 March 2008
I really loved this movie. It shows you there are many different kinds of love. If you like movies that make you cry then you'll love this movie. I did not cry until the end it was tears of joy and sadness. What a awesome movie. The acting in the film could not have been any better, stunning performances. I gave this movie a ten. You think you know what is going to happen and you even hope it will. Then maybe it wont and maybe you don't want it to. This movie was a family drama it was captivating made you smile, cry, hope and laugh. I hope to see more movies by this director. Another thing that captivated me at times was the way the picture looked when someone was recalling a moment in the past the picture was absolutely beautiful great work by all involved.
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A story simply told . . .
jdesando28 July 2008
A story simply told, often told, can be an affirmation of our shared humanity. And so it is with Brick Lane, about a Muslim immigrant woman, Nazneen (Tannishtha Chatteriee), coming to East London in the early 1980's. Her repression as a housewife is the stuff of cultural cliché and also occasionally boring as we endure her silence in the face of a narrow minded businessman husband.

A beautiful but cloistered young wife may stray if her husband is loutish enough, and Nazeen's qualifies (Salish Kaushik). The rewarding part of the film comes with how the devout Nazeen deals with her sin and how the writers (Abi Morgan, Laura Jones) deliver a credible denouement. That ending is a bit of a twist but satisfactory.

Cinematographer Robbie Ryan has successful color and composition, almost too beautiful for the side of London I go to when I need slice-o-life experience. Credit or blame is awarded to young helmer Sarah Gavron for the painterly shots. Kitchen sink this is not, nor does it have the gritty insights and colorful characters of a Mike Leigh film such as Secrets and Lies. But it does put you in touch with the challenges of a beautiful woman in a culture where men are all that count.

In the future, more films will deal with the emergence of talented women overcoming the restrictions their cultures and religions have placed on them. If the films are as honest as Brick Lane, progress will tear down the brick wall of prejudice but not without doubts and not without a nod to the goodness tradition has offered as well. That ambivalence is at the center this subtly ambitious film.
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A woman from India is married off when she is young and moves to London to live with her much older husband.
ltlacey14 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
There are some books that should not be made into movies, and this is one of them. These are the books where there is very little physical action, but a lot is going on within a person's thoughts, what they feel, etc. That being said, it has been years since I read Brick Lane, but I do remember that I liked the book very much and I somehow recall that more went on in the book. Probably because we really got to know the main character. Her thoughts and feelings. But mostly how it felt to be taken away at such a young age, married off to someone she did not know, that who she was being married to was someone older than her own father, and that she had leave everything she had known to move to a new country and a new way of life. The movie did convey the basic premise of how, for a woman from this culture, one's life does not offer much. It is the same thing, day in and day out, and for the rest of her life. How depressing is that? She does find some solace, which of course causes a lot of guilt and anguish, but the movie does not dwell too long on that aspect. Much of the movie has very little physical action going on, and not much dialogue either, yet the actress who portrayed the main character managed to convey how unhappy she was with her life and how she did want to change it. Read the book instead.
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A migrant experience we can relate to
Philby-331 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Britain and Ireland were source countries for mass migration in the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries, but in the second half of the 20th some imperial chickens came home to roost. Thus there are over a million British citizens of Indian birth or descent, the majority being Muslims. The crowded London Borough of Tower Hamlets, where this film is largely set, has, according to Wikipedia, a population which is 36% Muslim, many of whom hail from what is now Bangladesh.

This is the story from Monica Ai's novel of one migrant from a Bengal village, Nazneen (Tannishtha Chatterjee), who, after the death of her mother (an unexplained suicide), is, at the age of 16, married off to Chanu, a man twice her age who has migrated earlier from the village to England. They settle down in a tiny council flat in Brick Lane in the East End of London and by 2001 they have two teenage daughters (having lost a son as an infant). Chanu, grossly fat and only intermittently employed despite being an "educated man" who can quote Thackeray on demand, initially comes across as a blustering bully. But we find there is more to him than that, and we end up sympathizing with him too.

Nazneen, despite Chanu's objection, takes in sewing work from Karim (Christopher Simpson), a young man who runs a small clothing factory. She and Karim become friends, and then lovers. Nazneen, however, is after emancipation, not another subservient relationship.

The idyllic flashbacks to life in Bengal are touched with nostalgia but the close at hand, almost claustrophobic, portrayal of life in Brick Lane is grittily realistic. The New York and Washington terror attacks have considerable impact on the local Muslim community and both Karim and Chanu get involved in efforts to deal with the anti-Muslim backlash.

Tannishtha Chatterjee's very Indian style of acting (which seems to owe a lot to silent films) emphasizes how exotic she is in her East End environment. Yet at the end she discovers she has made the jump and is indeed a Londoner, one who still prays to Allah.

For the film, the story has been truncated and Nazneen's back story is reduced to a few flashbacks and what transpires from her correspondence with her sister who has remained in Bengal. The tone of the film is quiet but intense – these are people leading lives of quiet desperation – but it ends on an optimistic note.

It was interesting that local opposition in Brick Lane forced the director, Sarah Gavron, to shoot elsewhere. At least the film did not suffer the fate of "Water", another excellent movie on an Indian theme, which was banned in India and Pakistan. It seems some residents saw the book as portraying the community in a poor light. In fact it's quite the opposite – if a film can lead people to a better understanding of the world, this one will.
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A Stew of stereotypes
quadrophobia1 March 2011
This movie, though honored in many reviews as a perfect view on the life of immigrants in England, sadly becomes a stew out of stereotypes along the storyline. There is just a very little look taken on the social life and integration in the community in Great Britain, but a boring and overdrawn kind of love story, rather making the movie boring than interesting. Unfourtnatly there are no key scenes opening the movie for the viewer. Minute after Minute you fade out of the storyline being annoyed about long, meaningless scenes and less outdrawn , and mostly not further noticed motives.

All in all it is more a soft Romance than a reality displaying drama.
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Beautiful, Thoughtful, Provocative but an outsider perspective into a sensitive soul
Rais Rulez14 October 2017
This is a film that has deeply touched me and very few does these days. First of all, I liked the movie and I expected a worse handling looking at the lineup. Kudos to the cinematographer for the breathtaking shots of Bangladesh (my a native, so I'm partial here). The effort from the director and the lead cast to remain as authentic as possible is evident and I thank them for it, but what felt to me was an uneven pacing with uncharacteristic moves from all three of it's leads. There are app-laudable reviews and I won't repeat them. In regards to handling Bangla language, only Chatterjee as a native speaker although from India are relatively convincing to us native speakers but both male leads obviously didn't know what they were saying and I must add trying to use the Sylhet dialect was admirable dedication but it's not a language easy to put on. In the end it's evidently a production for Bangladesh from non-Bangladeshis and the minor lack of the cultural heart is felt through the film.....aside that, Thanks for making this movie. It's still a good one.
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A movie which has got something to say
matteo-bertotti15 April 2014
After her mother's suicide, 17-year old Bangladesh-based Nazneen gets married to 42-year old Chanu Ahmed, and moves to Britain in 1980, leaving her dad and sister, Hasina, behind. She soon gives birth to two daughters, Rukshana and Bibi. When her husband loses his job, she takes up sewing and meets with Karim, who supplies her dress material, and both get attracted to each other. While racism prevails in the community, especially from white supremacist groups, it grows after the events of September 11, 2001, compelling a debit-ridden Chanu to consider re-locating back to Dhaka, much to the chagrin of Rukshana. While the thought of being reunited with a seemingly care-free Hasina attracts her, Nazneen must now choose between living in their apartment on Brick Lane, continuing her affair or even getting married to Karim, or accompanying her husband back home.
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My 335th Review: One of the better British dramas of the decade
intelearts27 August 2010
Brick Lane score massively as being one of the only films to be about the Pakistani experience in the UK. British cinema is woefully lax when it comes to actually documenting the greatest social change since the Norman Conquest, that of colonial immigration. There has yet to be a generational film of the Caribbean experience, or Indian etc; Films of that type tend to be about the impact but not the experience; here we get a much better and more interesting perspective, there is barely a nod to those outside the group and the film is better and stronger for it.

The plot of the Bangladeshi family who are at best dysfunctional is portrayed realistically. Their daily struggles on an East London estate are beautifully done: all the parts especially the relationship between the two adults are clearly thought through and there is a complexity to their characters that visibly grows as the film progresses: she is not just a mouse, and he is not just a buffoon.

I would recommend this to anyone who appreciates good drama - it really is one of the more satisfying films I have seen in British cinema of the decade - and I personally think more films exploring these different facets of Britishness is no bad thing at all.
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Touching and involving film about a middle aged and British based Asian woman, which most certainly works.
johnnyboyz15 August 2010
I'm sure Brick Lane will strike some kind of chord with those depicted within, namely British based immigrants from the sub-continent, as everything from the struggling to adjust to a new life and culture right the way through to having to face discrimination from the locals, is detailed. For the rest of us, the film is nicely effective enough in its dramatic qualities to somewhat enthusiastically recommend, as the plight of a frustrated middle aged woman of Bangladeshi descent, whom strives to work things out with her husband; maintain the mothering of two daughters and just generally get by, is explored. The film revolves around this family and a handful of characters whom live in London's Brick Lane Muslim community, but there is no reason Sarah Gavron's film should be a film limited to representing just the British Muslims living there, more-so representative of those throughout the United Kingdom as a collective whole. An additional sense of refreshment arrives in the form of the film revolving around a woman, detailing the tribulations of a female living under British conditions but not enjoying this apparent promised land and suffering similar hardships at the hands of her husband as she might indeed go through back home anyway.

This lead is Nazneen (Chatterjee), a woman we observe walks down the titular Brick Lane amidst the bricked up walls; market stalls and generally cramped, enclosed locale after having previously dreamt of her home land in Bangladesh as this tranquil, beautiful and apparently elusive paradise she strives to be at one with. The dreams of being back at home stem from the letters she receives from her sister, detailing a free and spirited life away from arranged marriages and enclosed living; the montages and sequences of Bangladesh in stark comparison to how Gavron shoots Nazneen in London, as her face fills the frame and she keeps a look out on all sides of the screen suggesting awareness; paranoia and disdain. Nanzeen lives with husband Chanu (Kaushik), someone much elder than she is and a suitor whom was the result of an arranged marriage, and the two aforementioned daughters in Bibi and Rukshana. Nazneen is additionally haunted by the memory of her own mother taking her life many years ago.

One would assume the point Gavron is trying to make through Brick Lane, and I'd additionally assume a similar idea filters through in the novel on which this is based, is that the idea of sub-Continent immigration to the British Isles brings about the antithesis of what glories and riches the Western world appear to promise. In living in Britain, few can doubt husband Chanu's success story in owning an apartment; earning much in the way of money and possessing a decent job in computing, but what about the women whom are forced to tag along? The film's view on their stance has us believe it leads them to longing for a life back where they were; that the temptation to commit infidelity arises and that this life does nothing but spur on the woman of the relationship to garner her own job, all under this canopy of individualism and independence – the trouble being that, highlighted through Chanu, it tears the family apart as the cracks in the plan to arrange marriages and ship on out of places like Bangladesh to the First World as soon as possible for as long as possible begin to dramatically appear.

If Chanu means well, then it is a meaning well that rejects British, indeed Western, attitudes. A crucial scene sees Chenu bring home a computer and attempt to hook up to the Internet, something one of the daughters rejects in her turning away of modernity; embracing of independence and continuous talk of wishing, like her mother, to be back home in Bangladesh instead of dwelling in London. Nazneen's venturing astray from her husband and the world in which she finds herself sees her land a romantic relationship in the form of an affair with a young fabric salesman named Karim (Simpson), whom visits her during the day when Chenu is at work. He is unlike Chenu, he stands in in stark binary-opposition to him in that he's younger, slimmer and much more enthusiastic about Nazneen's idea of being a tailor and thus engaging in a profession; something it appeared Chenu saw as a threat to his masculinity as an apparent bread-bringer. One such scene sees Gavron shoot one of their more intimate scenes amidst a cluster of wine bottles colouring the screen in a blood red as the other half of it retains a clearer, whiter hue; thus highlighting the clashing senses of both danger in the illegality of the event juxtaposed with the supposed liberation she feels in being with Karim. Film aficionados will have already picked up on the inclusion of David Lean's mid 1940s melodrama Brief Encounter, a film Nazneen glares at as it plays on television as the item of an extra marital affair emerges.

In what is a film that rejects the view of Asian immigrants coming to Britain for a far better existence, particularly in regards to the women, the film is equally stern in its toying with other conventions or 'expectations'; a local loan shark is this elderly, eccentric woman and the love story between Nazneen and Karim seeing the female participant of the relationship objectifying the male and using him for a sexual release rather than the other way around. The film saves its richest example of symbolism for the very end when it uses a train station complete with a number of tracks visibly heading off into a number of different tunnels and directions as emotions and the want for escape, or liberation, reach agonising peaks; suggesting forks in life that break off down dark, looming routes into the unknown. The film balances its ranging content of social, racial and gender commentary studiously; culminating in an interesting drama about an immigrant family coming apart.
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I couldn't understand what anyone was saying
plkldf10 September 2008
I thought the movie was okay, what I could understand of it.

It is based on a novel, which I haven't read, so I don't know how much of the corniness of I-used-to-be-happy-but-now-Im'-SO-sad motif comes from the novel and how much comes from the filmmaker. But I was plenty sick of seeing this young woman wallowing around in her own self pity, scene after scene. We get it already -- she's unhappy! Good grief.

But my main complaint is that, while I understood all the Bengali (I presume) dialogue, I understood only a little of the English dialogue, because the former was given subtitles and the latter was not. Partly the sound quality, partly the fact that the characters were speaking very heavily accented English -- some of the most pivotal lines, which I was leaning forward to hear, turned out to be gibberish. Very frustrating. This movie needs subtitles throughOUT. Without them, in the auditorium where I saw it anyway (Cinema Sundays at the Charles in Baltimore), nobody knew what they were saying! I'd know more how I felt about the movie if I knew what the people were saying. I did enjoy the older daughter though. I've had one of those, and it rang true!
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Epic Failure
aSinnerMan712 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
(contains spoiler)

Okay let's see. First of all, I didn't think much of the book. The book was alright but the film is so bad that it doesn't even do justice to an okay book! The following is not a criticism of the book, rather a list of observations about the film only.

1. In the book, Monica Ali (author of the book) did NOT even suggest that Nazneen was sexually frustrated before her extra-marital affair. Now, one might argue that it is safe to assume that Nazneen was indeed sexually frustrated given the circumstances and you know what, I would probably agree with that. HOWEVER, we got to ask ourselves that if it is so obvious and realistic for Nazneen to be sexually frustrated, then why didn't Monica Ali choose not to highlight it so much? She did not because she DID NOT WANT it to be just another story about a woman with an unhappy sex life which leads her to cheat on her husband etc. I guess we can give kudos to Monica Ali for that.

But what about the movie? In the movie, the director has included a sex scene where she shows a completely disinterested Nazneen as her husband penetrates her. So what's the problem? The problem is that this scene gives out the impression that the dominant reason which drives Nazneen to be attracted to and have an affair with Karim is that she wants to satisfy her sexual desires. HOWEVER, that is NOT the main reason why Nazneen starts a relationship with Karim. (This brings me to the next point.)

2. Now, what is the real reason Nazneen is so attracted to Karim? Well, it is very clear in the book. Nazneen finds her husband Chanu to be a loser in life and an embarrassment. She finds her husband to be a total failure. She finds her husband to be a "weak man" and this bothers her. So when she comes across Karim, she is amazed by his smartness and his confidence. Nazneen thinks that Karim has a place in the world. She thinks Karim has great achievements (unlike her husband) and she immediately falls for it. However, as time passes, Nazneen realizes that Karim isn't really an accomplished man after all! In fact, if anything, he is much "weaker" than her husband. Therefore, it makes sense (in the book) when Nazneen tells Karim "We made each other up", in the crucial scene where she breaks the news to Karim that she doesn't want to marry him.

HOWEVER, in the movie, when Karim asks Nazneen "What did you want?", the answer that Nazneen gives to Karim is "I just wanted to feel like I was at home." Now, first of all, this is NOT the reason why she got involved with Karim and secondly, how on earth would an extra-marital affair make Nazneen (a God-fearing Muslim) feel at home?? Seriously, what was the director thinking!! This is not even believable! And lastly, if all Nazneen wanted was to feel at home, then her previous comment "We made each other up" doesn't make sense.

3. One of the most interesting aspects of the book was that Nazneen eventually starts to respect and perhaps even "love" her husband Chanu. Nazneen finally realizes that Chanu is actually a man of good heart and a loving and caring husband. She realizes that although Chanu can be quite self-delusional at times, he is not so stupid as she thought him to be. But most importantly, Nazneen also realizes that being a "strong man" isn't all there is to a person. And this is why, she starts to respect Chanu as a person and "love" him as her husband despite all his shortcomings.

HOWEVER, the movie hardly focuses on this change that has been taking place inside Nazneen. It tries to settle it in only one scene where Chanu intellectually confronts Karim in the Islamic meeting and wins the battle. But unfortunately, it simply wasn't enough. And that is why, when Nazneen tells Chanu that she loves him, it comes out as insincere, feigned and unconvincing. It is a huge let-down when you compare it with the emotionally charged scene in the book.

4. It is important to note that it wasn't only Nazneen who underwent a change. Chanu changed too! HOWEVER, the movie does NOT address this at all! Why exactly does Chanu want to leave England? What is it that is troubling him? Why can't he just "fit in" like many of his own generation? Unfortunately, the movie does NOT answer any of the above questions. Keep in mind that 9/11 only increased the tension Chanu was already feeling inside, it wasn't the cause. Chanu was struggling to reconcile the past with the present, the British colonial presence and plundering in the subcontinent with today's multicultural Britain. At the end, he realizes that he would never be able make England his home and he has to leave.

5. If you've read the book, you know that Monica Ali did NOT want to make a case against arranged marriage. At the end of the day, Nazneen was certainly better off than her sister who ran off with a guy to have a "love marriage" and ended up being a prostitute. If anything, Monica Ali shows that it is possible for arranged marriages to work out and "love marriages" to go terribly wrong. Perhaps that wasn't even what she wanted to convey! Perhaps the book simply isn't about arranged vs love marriage after all! HOWEVER, the movie doesn't adequately focus on Nazneen's sister (hell it doesn't even do justice to Nazneen herself) and therefore, it once again comes off as one of those anti-arranged marriage movies.

In short, the movie either ignores or fails to focus on the most interesting and unique aspects of the book. I would be pretty angry if I was Monica Ali.
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Trouble finding English subtitles
emuir-12 February 2010
To begin with, I do not care for women filmmakers, especially their self-congratulatory commentary and "women as victims" slant, which is why I initially found the lack of English subtitles or captions for the hearing impaired so unforgivable.

English as spoken in Britain is my native language, but I could not understand the Bengali accented English in the film. As a result, I could not follow the plot and resolved to check out the book. Eventually I found the captions by accident when I switched on subtitles for the special features, and after returning to the film, they came on. The DVD box did not list captions.

I rated the film a 7, as it is a very interesting and absorbing film which made made think about for a few days. No one in the film is bad or good, and you are able to sympathize with all the characters, even the elderly widowed moneylender. For me, the husband was the saddest character. His youthful dreams had come to nothing despite his education, he was passed over for the civil service and reduced to menial jobs in middle age. He had always dreamed of returning to Bangladesh as a successful man, but his failure to achieve success led to him staying on in Britain where he was not really welcome. Even his two daughters were ungrateful and alienated, perhaps because being British born they saw him as foreign. If the husband and wife had been able to communicate things might have been better, but although married and living in a tiny over-furnished flat, they seemed to live separate lives.
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Cultural Transplantation: How to Create a New Life
gradyharp17 January 2009
BRICK LANE is one of the more satisfying films about our remaining cultural identity crises. Based on the novel by Monica Ali and adapted for the screen by Laura Jones, this film flows through the lives of young Bangladeshi sisters - one married off to a successful older obese fellow countryman living in London and the other remaining in the family village. The story is at once sensitively private in its communication between the separated sisters whose sole communication is by letters, each longing for the other sister's advantages, and also woven into a public examination of how 'immigrants' adapt in a foreign country, absorbing all the idiosyncrasies of that new land and the altered perception of the world outside as it changes in dramatic ways.

Nazeem (the radiantly beautiful Tannishtha Chatterjee) is married by arrangement to the fat successful Chanu (Satish Kaushik): the two take up residence on the Brick Lane known as London's Little Bangladesh. Nazeem is a quiet and dutiful wife (longing for her sister and her village home), bears Chanu a son (who dies a crib death) and two daughters who comfortably are absorbed into the country of England, the only home they know. The aging Chanu is intelligent but fails to hold jobs, partly because of this outspoken behavior and in part due to prejudice of his employers. Nazeem longs to return to Bangladesh, but when she is required to take in sewing to aid the falling family coffers, she meets the young and handsome Karim (Christopher Simpson). The two fall in love and Nazeem struggles with her duties and moral obligations as a wife and mother and her surfacing realization of her own identity. The Twin Tower tragedy of 9/11 occurs and the people of London turn against the Muslims: Karim is an activist and defends the rights of his fellow Bangladeshi brothers, hoping to encourage Nazeem to join him and remain in London. Nazeem struggles between passion and duty and ultimately finds her own path - becoming a complete woman individual of mature mind. And the results of her growth spell out the ending of the film.

The cast is large and very fine, and the photography by Robbie Ryan captures both the childhood remembered magic of Bangladesh and the raw realism of life in London. The musical score by Jocelyn Pook enhances the changing moods of this touching and significant movie. Director Sarah Gavron has found the perfect balance to tell this story of love, family obligations, and the changes of the world events. It is a film well worth seeing multiple times. Grady Harp
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Movie about relationships
Anaheim9280710 July 2008
The main female actress did a powerful job in her facial expressions. You could see the pain and anguish that she was carrying with her turn into smiles then strength. I particularly enjoyed observing the relationships between sisters of two generations: the one of the mother and her sister and the one of her two modernized daughters. The film portrays the Moslem culture as smothering the feelings/rights of women. It was interesting to see my feelings towards the husband change from unsympathetic to sympathetic. The film got poor reviews in the local newspaper, but I went ahead and saw it anyway. I'm glad that I did! The film also deals with the concept of "home" and awareness of how one defines it. The correspondence exchange between the main female character in London and her sister in Bangladesh reminded me of the correspondence exchange between sisters in "Pride and Prejudice."
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