Tag Archives: BFI

Film Review: After Love (2021)

Mary Hussain (Joanna Scanlan) is a British convert who is married to a Pakistani immigrant Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia). Ahmed unexpectedly passes away and leaves the widow isolated in grief. Soon after his death, she finds out that Ahmed secretly had married a French lady Genevieve (Nathalie Richard) with whom Ahmed also has a son.

Okay, first thing! Thank you BBC and BFI to come up with such a heartwarming emotional drama, After Love. Although, I have watched this plot many times in my life, but from the British productional aesthetics, perhaps this means a lot to show a story of two women in different situations, but both being Ahmed’s wives. What was striking about the film is the writing growth that solidifies Mary’s emotional development in the first forty minutes.

There are many touching moments in the film starting from the jawdropping first scene that builds the intensity followed by a one-shot consolation scene of Mary surrounded by lamenting women. Joanna has really given a terrific all-round performance. I am all sold when the directors take special care of small details. There is a scene where Mary in her prayer forgets a verse of Fatiha and tries to remember. It is a brilliant moment to develop theories about this scene. One is she actually forgot the line and felt embarrassed about it. Perhaps Ahmed used to help her remember the lines while praying and she happened to bring that memory back. Or maybe she was a new convert or had recently started to pray and made sense to forget. Or maybe the verse where she stopped had a translation she knew would break her.

I felt it was pretty unnatural on Genevieve not to doubt Mary’s facial shock and silence in the first meeting. Genevieve also didn’t consider a background check on her but rather trust her enough to lend her a copy of the house key. The film is slow-burn but I think the pace could have progressed if the director had considered also picturizing Mary-Ahmed’s happy moments from the past. Despite being a ninety-minute drama, the film was pretty long due to an extremely short plot.

Joanna Scanlan is the heart and soul of this film. This is the first time I have watched her performance and I believe it was a tremendous performance. Her facial expressions were very touching. The film is a quality definition to understand grief, tragedy, and shock. Especially, the elements of emotional surprises blend so well.

After Love also challenges the character to reevaluate the understanding of the religion and test her faith on both bullet incidents. One that she lost her husband and two, she discovered that there was another house and family he kept without her notice. It brings a lot of questions about the plot and Mary’s quest for the answers she never imagined to ask; did Ahmed lie or cheat with Mary? Was Ahmed scared to inform her and maintained the secret? Was Mary the one to lose her temper had Ahmed ever let her know? Because at least the French connection was aware that Ahmed had a wife in Dover and preferred to stay with her. Was religion or the teachings Ahmed had educated Mary were misleading with his deception or an unwanted defense? Was Ahmed to be adjudged amongst one of those thousands of global immigrants who marry a local citizen to get nationalize? It is nowhere propaganda against one nation as the director Aleem Khan himself is a British Pakistani.

After Love is melancholic and a sad tale of losing your beloved and struggling to react to the choices made by the deceased. The plot has made rounds but the detailing and the trajection of hypnosis that carries the burden on the characters is what makes this film a brilliant case study of human affairs.

Ratings: 8/10

Film Review: Lunana – A Yak in the Classroom (2019)

While I was doing a wiki on the recently released nominations for the Oscars, I observed this film, Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, in the Best International Feature Film category. What surprised me was the fact that this film came all over from Bhutan. I had never watched a Bhutanese film before and Lunana created history to represent Bhutan for the first time in the Oscars. After further research, the film’s reputation impressed me that this film has reached various film festivals for screening and won a couple of biggies like Palm Springs International Film Festival and had a World Premiere at the BFI London Film Festival.

Lunana is a beautiful remote valley of Bhutan. With a few houses and an extremely limited population, people here make their living from yaks and sheep. The film is about young Ugyen who is enrolled for training in teaching. But his heart is in becoming a singer and moving to Australia for a better living. The institute moves him to Lunana for a temporary period to teach small kids. Meeting some new social challenges and way of living getting tougher, Ugyen experiences life like never before.

This film heavily reminded me of Ashutosh Gowariker‘s Swades and Greg Mortenson‘s famous book Three Cups of Tea because Lunana excitingly had elements of both. Like rural simplicities, hospitality, and generosity from both, Himalayan mountain climbing to teaching in a least-facilitated school from the book, reluctant of adapting rural methods but going 360 for the betterment from the film. Lunana is a hybrid sense of finesse for a film and a book.

Watching a Bhutanese film for the first time, I actually am impressed with the filmmaking as obviously there has to be the reason why this film came to international fame. The first forty minutes have quite a slow and steady buildup to the story. Ugyen’s character development is the clear winner. His character complexity in traveling Lunana to enthusiasm for children are the best parts of screenwriting. The audience goes with the flow; the audience travels to Lunana with him and feels his jeopardy.

With a delicate sense of detailing, the director Pawo Choyning Dorji has shot the film with meticulous care. A lot of small portions are taken care of that means a lot. There is a thoughtful moment when in Lunana, Ugyen observes the old villager without shoes. He reasons that he doesn’t have money to fill his feet. In the next scene, his child shows up to his bare feet in her shoes. Very touching. The scene had nothing to do with the plot but these are the segments where the director gives value to the sub-detailing that builds the characters and gives the audience their part of the theory.

There is a scene where Ugyen teaches ‘C for Car’ but the kids do not recognize what a car is. So he replaces the car with a cow because they are familiar with that. In the world of automobiles, the director gives the audience their chance to realize that there are remote places where a thing called a car can neither exist nor humankind can imagine such a thing to exist.

I keep writing about the film being Bhutanese but I am compelled due to the filmmaking brilliance that I wasn’t expecting to be that good. Yes, it is a predictable story with the script nowhere meeting its tragic anti-climax or any sign of negative energy about an outsider influencing people of a certain place; but the productional aesthetics and the screenplay are just marvelous.

Lunana successfully conveys the message that the simplest ways of life can transform a human into happiness. Reaching the Oscar is a historic moment in their history and the film deserves its piece of the limelight. Lunana is a beautiful drama and highly recommended to all the viewers.

Ratings: 8.3/10