This film is a 2007 adaptation of Monica Ali's popular book. I have never read the book so cannot comment if it follows closely. It tells the story of one woman, Nazneem, as she travels from her native Bangladesh to London for an arranged marriage and subsequently struggles to find her place both within her family and her community.
It's a totally captivating look at life in Brick Lane from the late eighties to the early 2000's as Nazneem must cope with a fast changing world, in which everything she had thought was certain falls away. At times humorous, at times moving, at times serious comment on our society, this is a film which has a lot to say but is never preachy. It has some great characters, especially Nazneem's larger than life husband, and is so well written and acted that they never feel like caricatures, but real people.
I loved this film. It entertained me and made me think. It's a rare film that can do both these days. 5 stars.
on 23 May 2009
Having read the book, I decided to buy the DVD, expecting it to at least stick to the story in part if not in all, but I was quite disappointed with it. The book is very powerful, and I know that films cannot encompass all the elements but, despite knowing this, I still felt a little let down. The actors are first-rate, and the photography is also very well-shot. As the wife of an Asian myself, I could empathise with some of Nazneen's thoughts although I am not Asian. My advice to anyone who wants to experience the fullness of Monica Ali's powerful book, is just that - buy the book.
on 21 April 2009
"Brick Lane," is based on the acclaimed first novel by Monica Ali, which was short-listed for the Booker Prize. Director Sarah Gavron, screenwriters Abi Morgan and Laura Jones, and the entire cast have done a beautiful job of bringing this wonderful story to life on the big screen.
The film opens revealing the brilliantly colored panorama and lush landscapes of a village in Bangladesh. Two girls, sisters, are laughing and running, playing hide and seek in the sunshine. Then something goes terribly wrong. It quickly becomes apparent that the girls' mother does not share their happiness.
Flash-forward 20 years...the oldest of the two girls, Nazneen, (Tannishtha Chatterjee), is now a married adult, living with her husband and two daughters in a cluttered, drab East End flat in Brick Lane, the Bengali enclave of London. The comparison between the vibrancy of her early life and the colorless, claustrophobic existence which is her life now, is shocking and oppressive.
At the age of seventeen, Nazneen was forced into marriage with a man old enough to be her father. She was told that he is an educated, prosperous man. Her main concern was that he lived in England, far away from her beloved sister, Hasina. In reality, her husband, Chanu Ahmed, (Satish Kaushik), may be literate, but he is also a pompous lout, fat, balding and seemingly oblivious to the realities of everyday life. He appears to have no common sense, but does possess a ridiculously inflated ego. He thinks of himself as a frustrated intellectual. Although not a cruel man, Chanu rules the roost with an iron fist. And the dutiful, obedient Nazneen complies with his every wish. She is powerless to control her fate in the culture in which they live.
When Chanu loses his job, he accepts employment as a taxi driver, working nights. He finally acknowledges the truth of his diminished job prospects, and begins to borrow money. First he invests in a computer, which he doesn't know how to use. Then he pursues further, more outlandish, self-employment projects and Nazneen despairs. To make matters worse, he has borrowed from the biggest loan shark in the neighborhood, (Lalita Ahmed). She has a system which ensures the debts are never paid back, and constantly pesters Nazneen for the cash.
Their two daughters Shahana, (Naeema Begum), and Bibi (Lana Rahman), irritate their father, especially the rebellious pre-teen Shahana, who acts-out and wishes their lives were more Westernized. Shahana struggles with her adolescence, venting against Bengali Muslim traditions and longing for more permissive British mores. There was a son who died as a baby, and Nazneen's face takes on a look of terrible sadness when someone mentions what a beautiful boy he was.
Her only real pleasure is corresponding with her sister, who has not followed the path of duty and obedience. She has struck out on her own, married for love, and her life could not be more different from her sister's. Nazneen dreams of the day when she can return to her country of birth and see Hasina once more.
When a new neighbor comes into Nazneen's life, she brings with her a breath of fresh air. She is a forward-thinking, independent woman who sews at home for a living. She encourages Nazneen to buy a sewing machine and get work. Nazneen obtains both the machine and a job doing piecework, finishing blue jeans. This is how she meets Karim, (Christopher Simpson), who picks-up and delivers the sewing. He is young, handsome and an active leader in community politics. Their friendship blooms and Nazneen smiles more frequently, her energy level reaches new highs. Karim is a compassionate man who actually listens to her. He encourages her to attend neighborhood meetings and challenges her to take charge of her fate. Their relationship becomes more and more intense.
After 9/11, and the racist repercussions and backlash which occur, Karim changes drastically. He becomes a militant, grows a beard, wears traditional robes, and actively looks for ways to improve the lives and spirits of the Muslim community. His rhetoric becomes more and more anti-West. Nazneen realizes she does not want to continue their relationship. Chanu changes during this period also. He demonstrates that he has been paying some attention, although peripherally, to his wife's and daughters unhappiness. And his tenderness and innate kindness, never before apparent, shine through, as the family, as a unit, makes a most important decision which will change their lives forever.
Tannishtha Chatterjee is extremely talented, and although the other actors perform very well, it is she who carries the whole film. We watch her grow as she becomes more confident and independent. Satish Kaushik gives a masterful performance. He shows the pathos and humor of a man who has lost control of his life, and tries to hide his fears from his loved ones.
Although the film is melancholy, there are uplifting and poignant moments, including the surprise ending. I loved the novel and was totally absorbed in the film. I recommend it highly.
on 16 March 2009
Brick Lane follows in a great tradition of British Film Making which includes My Beautiful Laundrette My Beautiful Laundrette, London Kills Me, Sammie and Rosie Get laid and Bhaji On the Beach.
It is a well woven tale, very well crafted, replete with meanings and open to much interpretation. Ostensibly the story of two sisters in Bangladesh, separated after their mother dies, with the elder being sent off to London in an arranged marriage, and the younger left at home in the village.
This is a story well known to British sociologists concerned with family and kinship particularly in East London. During the 1980s many Bangladeshis came to Britain seeking a new life, like the Indians and Pakistanis before them, but unlike their South Asian counterparts were predominantly rural dwellers before moving. Many found it hard to settle without a working knowledge of English and were settled in the many medium and high rise social housing built in the boom years of the 1950s and 60s. What is alluded to but not dwelt on in the context of the film is the difficult situation the newcomers found themselves in with a resurgent British Nationalist movement (National Front/British Nationalist Party) terrorising the immigrants with their bovver boy infantry.
The film begins with the departure of the older sister whom we learn was only 17 when she was married. It then contunues further ahead in time when she is a mother to two sisters who appear to be slightly younger but living in an urban environment and who appear to be rebelling against the strict(ish) traditional way of life enforced by their father.
As the story unfolds with the mother taking in sewing work for a small remittance we watch the development of her as a person in her own right against her religious and family upbringing until she is transformed into the single parent bringing up two children in the grim urban environment of Britain in the 1980's.
Others have commented about her growth as a person but I feel that this is too simplistic in it's analysis. She certainly has achieved a degree of independence as a wage earner and as someone who wishes to control her own destiny but at the same time, she has not achieved any significant gain in her own environment. In many ways she is even further cut off from her familial and cultural links and is at the mercy of outside social forces in Britain.
There are as many questions at the end of this film as there are at the beginning. One could argue that the central character has achieved a considerable increase in the control of her own life at the end of the film than at the beginning, and could even say that she has a greater role in the destiny of her own children that her mother had, but this is not the whole story. There is a sense in which the older of her two daughters is seeking to move even further away from her family when we glimpse her going off with her peers.
All of which makes this film fascinating viewing and fuels considerable debate over it's meaning. This serves to make this an excellent film to be watched over and over again
on 8 October 2008
Having read and enjoyed the book, I was slightly disappointed in that I felt the treatment was too downbeat, particularly when we are introduced to the London setting. I also felt that some distinctions were too sharply drawn. Yes, past life on the sub-continent should be portrayed as idyllic, but the husband came across as "too wrong" (even though, if my arm were twisted, I would choose his as the best performance). Where were the nuances (like seeing Torville and Dean on TV and being excited by the shortness of attire)? I feel like I need to read the novel again, to see if I was mistaken (good move, in any case). Reviewers have commented generically on the acting, but I would commend the two children as well as the adults; and a word about the excellent ethnic theme and background music.