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Mon July 28, 2008
A story simply told . . .
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
A story simply told, often told, can be an affirmation of our shared humanity. And so it is with Brick Lane, about a Muslim immigrant woman, Nazneen (Tannishtha Chatteriee), coming to East London in the early 1980's. Her repression as a housewife is the stuff of cultural clich? and also occasionally boring as we endure her silence in the face of a narrow minded businessman husband.
A beautiful but cloistered young wife may stray if her husband is loutish enough, and Nazeen's qualifies (Salish Kaushik). The rewarding part of the film comes with how the devout Nazeen deals with her sin and how the writers (Abi Morgan, Laura Jones) deliver a credible denouement. That ending is a bit of a twist but satisfactory.
Cinematographer Robbie Ryan has successful color and composition, almost too beautiful for the side of London I go to when I need slice-o-life experience. Credit or blame is awarded to young helmer Sarah Gavron for the painterly shots. Kitchen sink this is not, nor does it have the gritty insights and colorful characters of a Mike Leigh film such as Secrets and Lies. But it does put you in touch with the challenges of a beautiful woman in a culture where men are all that count.
In the future, more films will deal with the emergence of talented women overcoming the restrictions their cultures and religions have placed on them. If the films are as honest as Brick Lane, progress will tear down the brick wall of prejudice but not without doubts and not without a nod to the goodness tradition has offered as well. That ambivalence is at the center this subtly ambitious film.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com