BRICK LANE (a J!-ENT DVD Review)
December 25, 2008 by Dennis Amith
A beautiful and moving film about self-discovery, carrying on or moving away from cultural traditions when moving to a new country and more. A delightful performance from Tannishtha Chatterjee, Salish Koushik and Christopher Simpson.
TITLE: BRICK LANE
FILM RELEASE DATE: 2007
DURATION: 102 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: NTSC, Region 1, 2:35:1 (Anamorphic Widescreen), French Subtitles, English 5.1 (Dolby Digital)
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: January 13, 2009
Directed by Sarah Gayron
Based on a novel by Monica Ali
Screenplay by Abi Morgan, Laura Jones
Produced by Alison Owen, Christopher Collins
Director of Photography: Robbie Ryan
Music by Jocelyn Pook
Executive Producers: Paula Jalfon, Duncan Reid, Paul Trijbits, Tessa Ross
Tannishtha Chatterjee as Nazneed Ahmed
Satish Kaushik as Chanu Ahmed
Christopher Simpson as Karim
Naeema Begum as Rukashana “Shahna” Ahmed
Lana Rahman as Bibi Ahmed
Lalita Ahmed as Mrs. Islam
Harvey Virdi as Razi
Zafreen as Hasina
A moving film that will touch your heart.
“BRICK LANE” is a film based on the best selling novel by Monica Ali about arrange marriages, moving away from one’s country and living a new life in another country and for many, living a life based on survival and marriage where there might not be strong love but also a film about finding one’s self.
The term “Brick Lane” is actually a long street in East end of London and where many Bangladesh community reside.
The story centers around a Bangladeshi woman named Nazneen. Nazneen and her sister are very close but due to a tragedy of her mother committing suicide, life has changed in her family and Nazneen, at a young age, is quickly arranged to get married with a man 25 years older than her.
Fast forward twenty years later in London and Nazneen now with two daughters and her husband (Satish Kaushik) live in an apartment in Brick Lane and her husband who is unemployed is always gone during the day and tries to find ways to make money for the family.
Nazneen appears to live her life with no soul. Her husband doesn’t treat her with love or an equal, just a wife who does what he says and raises the family. But for Nazneen, the only thing that really keeps her going in life is her two daughters and the letters that she had received from her sister a long time ago.
Her sister appears to have a good life and didn’t get in an arranged marriage and did her own thing. And for Nazneen, each time she writes to her, there is not much to write. She stays home, takes care of the kids and rarely ventures out on her own but only during the day. She has lived a sheltered life and a woman that has no zest in her life, her soul is quietly dying.
But things change for her when she meets her new neighbor who has a sewing machine. Nazneen figures she can raise some money for the family but when a young man named Karim comes to her apartment to have blue jeans mended, the two start to develop an attraction that leads to Nazneen having an affair, which literally changes both of them.
Nazneen seems to be happy, her soul renewed but how long can she keep her secret from her husband and when 9/11 changes the world, it also changes life in London, especially for the Muslims. Nazneen’s life and the people close to her will never be the same again.
Suffice to say, as one would see this film as a positive step for women who come from cultures which they are not treated as equals or lack their independence, the film and also the novel is also very controversial among the Bangladesh people who even campaigned and protested the filming of “BRICK LANE” in their community because they felt that the film was demeaning towards the Bangladesh people.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
The DVD is presented in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen and cinematography had an earthy feel with yellow, brown and redish lights utilized at times. Very beautiful cinematography. The majority of the footage is inside Nazneems apartment but near the final quarter of the film do we see more of London.
As for audio, the film is featured in English 5.1 (Dolby Digital) and the majority of the film is dialogue. But when the theme song that plays in the beginning and the end come on, it really comes out in the speakers. A very beautiful theme song!
“BRICK LANE” comes with the following special features:
Overall, I enjoyed “BRICK LANE” but at the same time, I can understand why Bangladeshi people dislike the film. In modern times, many countries especially in America, are used to seeing women in power and when we here about marriage, we tend to hear about people falling in love and rarely are people accustomed to arranged marriages.
In the commentary, both Gavron and Chatterjee had opportunities to learn from women who are in similar situations as Nazneem and I would imagine that there would be some who just live their lives for the family like Nazneem. And in today’s world, I can understand why people not familiar with arranged marriages from other cultures may disagree with it.
But in South Asia and also other parts of Asia, arranged marriages still happen. It’s part of the culture. Even within my family, my grandparents had told me stories about having to go back to their home country and find a good wife there and I was not going to stand for an arranged marriage.
How I viewed “BRICK LANE” was almost something similar to my upbringing in the fact that there is traditional culture where rules apply and there are those who live in a country where those traditional and cultural rules are not necessarily all gone but it’s not the same. Nazneem is a woman who knows Bangladeshi customs but at the same time, her soul is like a candle with its light slowly getting smaller. The only thing that keeps her going is the fact that she wants to be their for her children unlike her mother who gave them a chance at life but at the cost of her’s.
But she’s not happy with her husband, she’s doesn’t seem attracted to him at all. But for the sake of family, she does her best. And then of course, life changes for her when she meets Kalim. Kalim is a young man who is becoming a man and wants to marry Nazneem and both change each others lives.
How one’s upbringing (especially in their culture) can lead them to see this movie as quite destructive or some may see it as moving and beautiful, the film and its novel will continue to have its critics and its supporters.
In the end, “BRICK LANE” is about a woman finding her way and becoming independent. A husband who wants the best for his family but unable to make things happen in London and wants to be back in Bangladesh and a young man, coming of age and because of the treatment towards Muslims after 9/11, leads him to activism.
All three performers, Chatterjee, Koushik and Simpson did an exceptional job for their roles on this film. Balanced with beautiful cinematography and an enchanting theme song, overall, I found “BRICK LANE” to be a quite moving. Definitely worth checking out!
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