Dir. Shamim Sarif
Starring: Lisa Ray, Sheetal Seth
The first of two films created by this director/writer using the same cast and within a short time frame, the second; The World Unseen, is far stronger probably because of being the second produced, also the book it is based upon is by far more secure and more coherent novel than the one used for this film.
The film is claimed by the writer, to be a portrayal of her relationship with the producer Hanan Katran. Generally this would be a reason to avoid a film like the plague, should it fall into the dreaded triptych syndrome of; written, directed and acted by one person, usually it can only mean pain for the audience. This is not the case here, possibly because it only encompasses two of the three. It falls into some of the pitfalls, but mostly they are the result of it being a first movie.
The plot is not particularly original, nor is the outcome in anyway surprising, there are a plethora of cliché’s to overcome, the Asian Lebanese joke, rearing it’s unsurprising head, though personally I quite like that one, if it’s well placed, and Yasmin trying to work out of Leyla is gay by looking at the well placed gay iconography such as Tipping the Velvet or KD Lang CD’s (Personally, I never got the KD Lang thing, I find her music incessantly dull and croony). However it is played out so nicely that this isn’t particularly cause for concern. It’s still an enjoyable film, just don’t expect anything new. Some of the dialogue also comes out occasionally as seeming forced or trite, but the actresses handle this with aplomb and it’s not cringe worthy in the least.
Tala’s family, barring her father and sister Zina need a damn good slap, her sister Lamia in particular, a manipulative wench if ever there was one, but then she is somewhat like mother like daughter, so it’s to be expected. The mother’s maid, played wonderfully by Nina Wadia, is hilarious; she is constantly trying to get one up on her mistress by spitting in her drinks and trying to get her to drink them.
Ali, Leyla’s boyfriend at the start of the film is very supportive and non-judgemental; he is a friend of Tala’s which is how the two women initially meet.
A good if somewhat simplistic and predictable film, it is quite possible that without prior knowledge, you could guess that this was clearly a first film, though this is not particularly a bad thing.
What I particularly liked about the characters was that it was the shy, quiet retiring one, who came out so thoroughly and wouldn’t be with Tala if she weren’t prepared to come out and be open about each other, a nice change.
The story feels as if it is not quite complete, there are elements of it that are far too simply tied up or resolved resulting in a not wholly accurate portrayal of people, yet at times it is with unerring accuracy.
The acting is very real, enjoyable and believable situations and emotions, particularly Leyla’s sister Yasmin, and her mother Maya.
The making of this film was wracked with budget problems, so the fact that this film has turned out so well considering is a mark of achievement for the cast and crew.
Generally this was an interesting watch, despite some misgivings about the cliché and unoriginality of the plot. It is one I would, (and have) watch again without complaint, the two leads are engaging and you want to follow their stories, besides it’s great to see a lesbian film that ends on a happy and positive note and to see an independent lesbian film maker succeed. If nothing else stirs your interest, watch it to support a small, underfunded sector of the industry that could do with more support.
Technical rating: 7/10 for storyline and script, 9/10 for lush and inviting visuals.
My rating; 8/10