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Brick Lane (2007)
An impressive, sensitive message for many a cornered soul!
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.
As unpretentious as a boiled potato!
Two figures, Dad and son, wending their way across the vast Russian hinterland is a powerful metaphor for the journey one makes during one's lifetime. The characters like the landscape, are simple, unpolished and real. Even the most exacting of directors would find little to complain of from the efforts of the uniformly able cast; unforced and memorable. The assortment of folk they meet along the way (eccentrics of one kind or another), do enough to nudge the film on; the batty, vodka-sodden character in need of a new roof offering the best contribution in my view (and effects the biggest impact of all upon their journey).
I would single out for special praise, the young lad (played by Gleb Puskepalis). For me, he succeeds in showing the premature transition his circumstances force him to make, from youthful innocence to adulthood; struggling with all that is brutal in our world: bereavement, betrayal, uncertainty, violence, isolation, hunger, poverty... The film offers us no reassurance that he has succeeded in coming to terms with or overcoming any of the above. Instead we learn that he is no longer the same boy; the boy obediently walking with a rucksack-eye-view behind his father, or the boy who earlier trustingly sat, accepting good humoured fatherly assistance in dealing with a worm in an apple.
The film, for me, can best be summed up by one of the simple meals partaken of by father and son: crude, straightforward and honest.
Chilly number from Istanbul!
A study of one of those universally familiar, physical and/or emotional states: isolation. I think the film also comments on cultural displacement too.
The film presents the experiences of two Turkish men (cousins). One has money (and the comforts that come of having 'made-it' with a steady income); the other has none and goes in search of work. Neither are happy. Expect no celebration of life here - this is loneliness, warts and all.
The film succeeds in offering a powerfully bleak traverse across the 'low lands' of the human condition. Brave film-making. Well-acted and well-shot in my view (outdoor shots by the harbour being my own favourites). A film that should inspire gratitude in anyone who is not a stranger to happiness and fulfilment in life (not to mention employment); everyone else will find a companion in this film. A film with all the warmth and pace of an ice-floe. Expect a bitter pill, not a 'happy pill.'