Reviews

Brick Lane

Camille Gervais

This is beautifully filmed with parallels between Nazneen's life in London and her childhood in Bangladesh.


Brick Lane

Director: Sarah Gavron
Cast: Tannishtha Chatterjee, Satish Kaushik, Christopher Simpson, Naeema Begum
Distributor: Sony
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
First date: 2007
US DVD Release Date: 2009-01-13
Website
Trailer

Brick Lane

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9780743243315
Author: Monica Ali
Price: $15.00
Length: 432
Formats: Paperback
US publication date: 2004-06
Amazon

Brick Lane starts off in Bangladesh with vibrant colors, blushing landscapes and dense vegetation gracefully deployed on screen. There is a scent of nostalgia already impregnated in the first few scenes, directly contrasting with smiles constantly glowing in the children’s face. The viewer can immediately notice that something is going to be wrong, that the constant happiness of childhood is never lasting. Then we meet Nazneen (played by the reserved yet wonderful Tannishtha Chatterjee), who’s destiny will be soon drastically changed.

Compared to the effervescent Bangladesh we were just introduced to, the London flat in which the movie leads us is claustrophobic, dreary and colorless. Nevertheless, this is where Nazneen is now confined, with her grotesque husband (Satish Kaushik) and their two children. It’s her journey we are following as she looses herself in an occidental society she doesn’t really understand but that she will learn how to tame with the help of a young Bengali, Karim (Christopher Simpson).

This is beautifully filmed with parallels between Nazneen's life in London and her childhood in Bangladesh. Direct oppositions are constantly made between Nazneen’s two worlds and this helps increase our perception of what she is actually going through. This storytelling method gives us more insights into Nazneen’s character; her steady melancholy, her difficult uprooting and her sturdy desire to go return to her homeland.

The director Sarah Gavron did a nice job of telling a lot with the use of images and colors instead of words. Without a doubt, it is the aesthetic that saves the film from falling into another Bollywood type of story, because some of the narrative plot resembles what the gigantic Indian film industry is known to produce, contrary to the polished and well-composed images indicate. The entire movie, thankfully, does not fall into the “Indian romantic” (in that case “Bengali romantic”) category, but there are notable traces, some clichés and other over-explored emotions here and there that we could live without.

For example, the film is set in a post 9/11 era, but it explores only briefly the political background and only slightly depicts racism against Muslims and Arabs. The film’s energy is concentrated around Nazneen’s emotional evolution. Maybe that’s a good thing, since it spares the film unnecessary heaviness, but that approach also denies the movie some significance. Gavron tried to balance the two and I think she succeeded in some parts but not enough to create a memorable movie with an actual reflection on the cultural and political tensions present in this particular time.

On the other hand, the casting is flawless. Bengali actress Tannishtha Chatterjee plays the reserved and mysterious Nazneen. With her exotic and puzzling beauty, she draws an interesting portrait of Nazneen. She speaks easily with her eyes, her body, and her overall image – indeed with everything except her actual lips.

The podgy husband is played by Satish Kaushik ,who renders his role with tenderness and optimism. It’s hard to see him as the bad guy who snatched Nazneen from the perfect world of her childhood because he seems so fragile and distracted. As for the young Karim, Christopher Simpson plays him with certain violence and assured passion. His confidence draws us into his character as he slowly evolves into a more radical version of the handsome young man we were first introduced to.

The extras are complete and insightful. Some scenes are analysed by the director and the producer, lending more depth to the story. There are the usual deleted scenes and short documentary about the movie. Overall, I would say the “making of” is a useful tool for understanding the story and for making parallels between the novel, by Monica Ali, and this film adaptation.

5

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

9
Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.