This is an eye-opening film. And a heart-breaking one. And one that may leave you changed afterwards.
It's pacing seems to take its momentum from the opening scene of the large, ponderous river (representing the Ganges). But this pacing allows the viewer to fully absorb the culture, the characterizations and the details of the plot.
And it's visually stunning, taking some of the sting out of the forlorn story. Writer/director Deepa Mehta ignores the vérité style of layering ugliness upon ugliness to enhance a tragedy. So, instead, we revel in the beauty of nature. Of Indian artistic style. Of Canadian-Hindi actress Lisa Ray. And the hunky man (John Abraham) who is infatuated with her. And, finally, the beauty found in a remote hope.
The story seems fresh despite being constructed of familiar parts. The acting is generally very good with a superb one by Seema Biswas as the widow approaching middle age who is wise and sympathetic, but not so wise that she's immune to the ache of her predicament. Sarala as the 8-year-old widow is a scene-stealer despite her obvious inexperience. And John Abraham and, especially, Lisa Ray bring earnestness to their romantic storyline.
This film continues to haunt me.