It hasn’t been the greatest September, and apart from a change in my human surroundings there’s really nothing much going on, at least not worth mentioning on here anyway. To distract myself from all the movies I was looking forward to watching as soon as I possibly could and the fact that almost all of them played at TIFF, I reviewed a movie that wasn’t even on my list. My heartbreak in terms of missing out on TIFF this year was worse than ever and I resorted to living vicariously through many a critics’ twitter feeds. You could say this was a coping mechanism and a poor one because it did nothing but reinstate that my heart is always, and always tied up in writing and my academia has unscathingly beat it in terms of priority.
A quick disclaimer: I haven’t read the book. Even if I had I’m pretty sure my review would be mostly objective and have maybe one paragraph seamlessly merging both and stating if they worked independently or not. I’m really that easygoing.
As always a few technical details before we jump right in. White Bird In A Blizzard, directed by Gregg Araki and based on the book by Laura Kasishke, starring the likes of Shailene Woodley, Eva Green and Christopher Meloni. I went into the movie completely blind about the plot and as much as I hoped that it would surprise and thrill me, it did and didn’t.
In the year 1988, a single child named Kat (Shailene Woodley) is left on her own devices when her mother (Eva Green) mysteriously disappears. Kat’s father (Christopher Meloni) visibly taken aback with this disappearance does everything he needs to co-operate with the search for his wife but to no effect. Kat’s life takes a different twist and the lack of her boyfriend’s interest in her further fuels her discontent. I can’t quite put my finger on any adjectives that can fittingly justify Kat. I mean I can name a few but they are ultimately contradicted and this is why I never related to Kat at all, despite the dysfunctional family et al. Kat’s character development is flawed and confusing. I feel like either the script writers completely misinterpreted what it’s like to be 18 and hung out to dry with no sense of direction to your life, the mother you may or may not have respected or looked up to bailed on you or the director purposely aimed at this kind of shoddy representation. This is what confuses me to a point of extreme frustration and the reason I write this is to figure out what I feel about this movie. We know now that I didn’t enjoy it but we’re slowly getting to why I didn’t.
Not knowing the genre of the movie three-quarters into it I felt as dazed as Kat did in the frigid nightmares she had about her mother asking for help amid a snowstorm. Kat’s therapist concludes that dreams don’t mean anything and Kat quickly starts to feel disdain for the therapist. I will say if I was paying to talk to someone about my feelings, I wouldn’t necessarily be hoping to uncover a divine interpretation of my thoughts or feelings but Kat’s therapist might be the worst representation of a person doing a job they weren’t ever meant to do. The only other therapist I can think of that pissed me off so much was the one in Donnie Darko. Why am I even glossing over these trivialities? Maybe because there were so many angles to this story that felt forced. I can see how a novella might have essentially brought out more to these scenes that on the reel felt like a complete drag.
What can I say about Kat’s boyfriend though and how much he resembled guys that some of my closest friends dated. It’s eerie. The grungy, dumb as a pole, messy and unkempt hair a given kind of a boy that girls like Kat put up with for reasons that are the biggest secret in the world, in my opinion. So, Kat goes from being so into Phil to really just wanting someone she can go to bed with – that someone being the older detective on her mom’s case. Kat’s character up to this point seems completely fine that her mother may never be found. She watches her dad continue to be the man he used to be and moves on to college. On coming home she finds that he has a girlfriend and takes no objection to it whatsoever.
So in keeping this review spoiler free, I can only say this much that at the stage when Kat really starts to show signs that she cares her mother is gone, that she needs closure you have no connection with her at this point at all. All of the last fifteen minutes or so are rushed, dramatic, supposed to induce levels of thrill and suspense moments. The only thing that climax did for me is genuinely catch me by surprise.
I will diverge here just a bit to explain why this “being caught by surprise” is something so important to me. I know someone who watches movies and anime and loves the subtleties, the story arcs, the little details and the idea behind the bigger pictures almost the same way I perceive them. So when we watch anything together, it’s usually a fun ride. However, he feels like he’s reached this point where he has cracked the code behind every kind of movie there is. This for me feels like a very impressive feat. I know, for a fact, that I’m no where close to that level. More importantly, he makes me wonder, do I want to be? Halfway or even sooner through a film, he’s usually got a good grasp of the possibilities, I daresay he’s managed to shortlist the one outcome, too. Whereas I on the other hand, leaning ahead, face in my palms, tapping feet, am way too engrossed to even bother thinking ahead afraid I’ll overlook something. So when a curveball hits the screen I am usually smack in the path and I’ll tell you this, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love that I can still enjoy something without already knowing how it might end, that my mind is not (yet) attuned to pick up things that fast and thereby ruin my viewing experience. I remember initially feeling a little less about not being able to grasp these things as easily as he could, but then I wouldn’t have this blog and I wouldn’t ever need to write about a movie in order to figure it out. This lacking is a blessing.
I do not suggest White Bird In A Blizzard primarily because the movie made me uncomfortable and sort of queasy and I am still not sure why. It’s slow and far from compelling and even for the suspense genre that I had no idea about until an hour into it, White Bird In A Blizzard is odd, gloomy and confusing in the way that it doesn’t leave your mind for days after you’ve watched it. No one really needs that.
Another review requested by S. It’s becoming increasingly evident that I am having a good time working through the list she requested/recommended. More than ever, I feel like all hope is not lost with my review writing and that someone, somewhere respects what I do, and that is often enough to keep me going. That she addresses herself as “my biggest fan” not only humbles me a great deal any more but only adds the icing to the cake of the wonderful movies suggested. Lest we forget, words and movies are the best way to carve a niche in my heart.
CAUTION: Implied spoilers and a personal rant embedded somewhere in the middle.
Teenage Dirtbag is a small-budget indie movie directed, scripted by Regina Crosby based on somewhat true events. I looked up background details on her and the lead cast but I’ve decided not to bore you with the details because well, my goodness, can I not wait to write about this movie already.
If you’re like me and not quick to discount a book, movie or any other form of media by simply its name or in this case, IMDB description then you’re in for a huge delight. Teenage Dirtbag is way more than what meets the eye in the first few minutes. I say this because I watched this movie thinking I knew exactly what I was in for. I’ve been doing that lately. I’ve been afraid to find triggers in movies and books that remind me of a life I had. A life I may no longer have any access to. It’s difficult to be that one person society is expecting you to be every single day. Unbearable when you’ve agreed to be that way and have no way of going back. And this is what Amber’s point of conflict is. Let’s start from scratch now, shall we?
Teenage Dirtbag is a non-linear film surrounding the high school prim and proper cheerleader, intelligent, pretty to a point of unnecessary perfection girl named Amber and the typical high school delinquent, Thayer. The movie starts off with a present day scenario where Amber is leading her days rather incoherently as she carries inside her a tiny human being. Flashback to high school. Think back to that one person you met in high school who was so thoroughly exhausting, annoying and downright difficult to avoid as much as you tried, especially if you tried. That one person of the opposite sex that tried their level hardest to get your attention and as exasperating as it was, you secretly enjoyed it. I know I did.
Thayer is a deeply troubled boy trying to put on a brave-enough-to-eat-absolutely-anything obnoxious front at school while he can barely stand up to his abusive father back at home. Amber, on the other hand, excels at all the tiny and big accomplishments a girl can perform well at in high school but is neglected by her family and yearns for their appreciation. It’s hard to say that this part, right here, isn’t already sounding like the usual good girl meets bad boy cliché. But believe me when I say it’s hardly like that.
So, Amber is obviously the only person indifferent and quite unamused by Thayer’s ridiculous, cringe-worthy shenanigans that usually squeeze out reactions from everyone else. Amber, in the first person narrative describes how in retrospect all of her actions and the lack thereof, affected Thayer deeply and led from one thing to the other. It’s hard to tell what Amber feels about everything that happened back when they were young and free, whether, in hindsight she wishes she had behaved differently. But that’s me getting ahead of myself. Anyway coming back, Amber decides early on that Thayer is unworthy of her attention. She makes this so apparent at times, you have to wonder whether that really helps anyone at all. What this does is builds an air of mystery around her and attracts Thayer towards her, mostly subconsciously at the start and later, quite intensely.
As much as Amber believes that her misfortune of always being in such close proximity with Thayer is only because of the alphabetical ordering of their surnames, they end up together in a Creative Writing class. Their interactions through poetry and prose and the underlying hints passed on through verse draws them together in ways otherwise unimaginable. You see them forging a bond that is strained from the very start. Amber plays along with this and chooses to communicate with Thayer of her own volition when people aren’t paying attention. So they start passing notes during study hour. As they start developing a half-decent relationship with each other, they start to realize that both of them have issues at home that have some degree of commonality. Here’s my bone to pick with the story, Thayer and Amber were attracted to each other regardless of this angle to the plot. Anyway, I’m not one to bicker about such things too much and let me take this sour spot to diverge into parallels I love drawing between the reel life and my real life.
High school where I grew up was nothing like the one Thayer and Amber studied at or like any other high schools depicted in Western cultures. Hell, we don’t even call it “high school” per se. However, people – as I’ve been picking up on so acutely over the past few months are more or less the same in all parts of the world. So, there was a person exactly like Thayer in my life. There were two whole years that I look back on and ponder about but never speak out loud. This boy had an interest in me that aggravated me very much at the start. Recovering from a terrible break-up at the time, the last thing I needed was excessive attention and a need to overshare and thereby get really intimate with another. Fortunately, this boy for me was just a simple “no” and all of his playful (I suppose?) advances were dismissed by me and termed “hopelessly cheesy”. Onlookers laughed at us pulling off the girl-boy best friend stance and to a great extent we nervously laughed with them, too. Knowing that we each had very different personal lives but were more or less stuck in the same classroom for hours on end, we grew comfortable to a point that any kind of lack of attention from the other, resulted in a huge fight and another fact that we never admitted – jealousy. Days caught up to weeks and months and years. Time changed. We moved on with our lives. I put my foot down, asked for a choice that had me or someone else and said hurtful things and when this boy demanded I say something, anything, just like Amber, I said nothing at all. And just like Amber, in present time, I have no way of knowing how he is. I have ruthlessly chopped all means of contact and all I can do now, is wonder.
Coming back, there are scenes in the movie that give me goosebumps and I can see how they have actually been drawn from the writer and director’s personal experiences. Teenage love can be made to look all too fine and perfect on the big screen and many of these moments between Thayer and Amber are handled very carefully to bring forth more than just what meets the eye. The Creative Writing class professor brings to his character such genuineness and clarity that it’s hard not to feel you’re actually in that class with everybody else. Even that character was not stereotyped completely or overplayed. Thayer and Amber’s back and forth with their prose and poetry do not go unnoticed by him. He does not intervene in matters that he clearly has a good grasp about but has no right to interfere.
As the movie comes to its last lap, I had to take a deep breath and the gooey corners of my heart held on tight hoping against hopes that things work out for Thayer and Amber in the past. Despite knowing present day Amber’s condition. I guess, I was hoping for some kind of redemption from her, that her reason for never giving Thayer the time of day had only to do with society’s created norms. Films like this are hidden gems, not looking to make grand statements, targeted towards an extremely narrow audience that can draw on and appreciate even the slightest of resemblance to their past or present life.
Take poetry. Take music. Add over-saturated, vivid, vibrant cinematography. What is not to love about this beautiful mélange?
So often poetry translates into imagery in our minds that is often difficult to do justice on the main screen. Poetry is art. To do anything more with it often feels like a disservice to it. However, The Color of Time makes me feel otherwise. I am so whelmed at this point that I want to go back into the dream-like cocoon the film built around me and never escape.
Poetry written with a honey-glazed rhythm, spoken modestly, shot like a dream, plays like a heartbroken yet optimistic tribute to life. Those are the words that come to mind if I want to sum up The Color of Time in a single sentence. Directed in parts by twelve directors, pieced together in a haunting, back and forth manner – like our memories. The Color of Time is a compilation of Pulitzer Prize winning poet C.K. Williams’ beautiful poems and a peek into human memory and the moments that define us.
Starring James Franco as the present day poet we are taken way back into his life at various stages of growth, the instance he started noticing the world around him, his experiences with love, loss, the women in his life at various stages, his mother (Jessica Chastain) and his struggle with his art. The film does not work on a solid movie-like plot but brings out the underlying message about how C.K. Williams found his calling as a poet. It is hard to say that The Color of Time is a very original and insightful movie and that nothing like it was ever imagined or made before. It is, in parts, very reminiscent of one of my all-time favourite movies, The Tree of Life. But don’t get me wrong, I’ll watch every film that’s made that is inspired by it. However, I know some critics that find these parallels (Jessica Chastain gracefully walking around on vast expanses of grass and sunlight pouring in through the trees, through her beautiful hair and her ever perfect features) mildly annoying. I get that but I’m not one of those people and The Colour of Time works for me as is.
Having not read anything by C.K. Williams before I was happily taken to find that his poetry is my kind of poetry. I don’t write poetry very much at all any more but it comes to me sometimes and tugs at my sleeve for it to be written; I’m always wary of it because I know that writing that writes you is often the dangerous kind of writing. What I took from this movie, why it mattered to me so much right away was the fact that I was able to relate easily to what C.K. Williams felt in those particular memories of his previous years.
I know for a fact that I’m not the only one and that the urge for writing develops unknowingly inside you when you are very small. However, what I also know right down to my bones is the aloofness, the queer sense of being amiss from your physical self that comes with it. The relative ease with which you can subtract yourself from your current situation and piece sentences in your mind is often a limitless luxury. And who can tell on you, really, especially if you’re a child.
C.K. Williams grew up in a very reclusive time and he reflects on memories that change you, forever. A fleeting embrace, the touch of someone’s palms, the rush from running and the lack of interest in the things your parent might want you to do. I want to say that James Franco is simply James Franco in this movie and I don’t mind that at all. It feels like a better progression to his character in his self-produced movies (Palo Alto, anyone?). Mila Kunis, who intermittently features as the present day love of his life, the mother of his child, has no greater role to play except being beautiful in that ephemeral way where you want nothing more than to spend the rest of your life loving her.
The Color of Time is a vintage, soft-spoken, visually eccentric and thoroughly overwhelming movie. It has some really good moments but others that you may have seen elsewhere before and might not do much for you. However, if you love wordplay built on loss and lament, love and longing, basically just life go ahead and dim the lights, settle in by yourself and give this film a watch.
I’ve often said I’m not big on the comedy genre in movies and that it takes a very sharp, witty and often satirical take on humour for that genre to seemingly appeal to me at all. I feel like lately I’ve been stepping out of my usual indie movie flavours and experimenting with a random dash of humour and getting rewarded for my courage.
Appropriate Behaviour is a humorous, at times audacious yet thoroughly amusing take on several issues ranging from being an immigrant in modern day New York to living with a queer sexual orientation, coming out of the closet, dealing with heartbreak, growing as a person and simply being in your 20’s and what that entails. While all of this could easily be made into a five season long television show on HBO with a studded star-cast and a strong soundtrack, Desiree Akhavan – the writer, director and lead actress in the movie successfully wraps it all up in about 80 minutes.
Starring as Shirin, an Iranian immigrant living in NYC, Desiree effectively puts forth the bubble of her world as a bisexual young woman simply trying to get by. The movie flows back and forth to her relationship with a white girl named Maxine – that is, to be honest – doomed from the start. Post this devastating break-up with Maxine, Shirin is a big, hot mess. Shirin, although very spontaneous, upbeat and perky is a sensitive person under all that and wants Maxine back so bad.
The underlying reason for the break-up that Shirin can’t seem to shake off is the fact that she couldn’t come out of the closet and tell her parents. Her Iranian parents, with Iranian values and an Iranian straight elder son, set out to marry a girl from his medical profession. Shirin terms it as older child syndrome where the older kid wants to be perfect for his parents and do everything right but deep down is simmering and could one day pull out a gun in a public place. Shirin made me laugh and reminded me a little bit of me and that made my day.
Shirin’s the obvious centre of this story and even though the movie felt so familiar – I later figured out why – she does a stupendous job at keeping you gripped start to finish. She has a strong camera presence, lovely set of expressions, much grace in her acting and a whole lot of gumption that makes you love her but also sometimes pity her.
The issues Shirin faces trying to find in Brooklyn – an apartment, a decent job, the right partner – will strike a chord of commonality in anyone, in any part of the world. What I love is how Appropriate Behaviour doesn’t dwell too much on a particular problem, doesn’t poke humour too hard at say a scene between her potential employer and herself wherein he reacts to her Iranian origins in the most clichéd way imaginable. It’s refreshing when comic elements are in the slights and not all over the place in that metaphorical slapstick manner. It’s even more appealing when characters try to keep their sense of humour even in their darkest days.
Appropriate Behaviour is clearly an achievement as a debut film and is definitely a movie worth watching with your bunch of friends on a Friday night sleepover. If you’ve watched Blue Is The Warmest Colour (and loved it as I did) you will find that Appropriate Behaviour is actually a superfluous take on that same film. I don’t know if this comparison has been drawn by anyone else before but certain scenes, dialogues between the lead lesbian couple and arguments brought back distinct flashes of that movie in my mind. Which makes it tough for me to love Appropriate Behaviour as much as I would like to. Nevertheless, a movie that grips me from start to finish, resonates with my personal understanding of human nature and sneaks in a good few laughs is definitely a depiction of good cinema.
I sat down last evening, thinking to myself that I need to go back to watching movies and writing about them. Sometimes I push myself. I force myself to put on reviewer’s glasses and absorb everything. Even before I reach the halfway point in a movie – the part where things should be making sense, the part where you think you know how you’ll end your review, the part where a critic’s eye becomes almost unnecessary – what I mean is, the process becomes effortless. And my god do I love that. You’d imagine a change of surrounding would do so much more for your writing. But my inspiration is a big ball of wool that I can’t quite unravel. I’m getting there. Undoing knots a few layers at a time.
I went back to my list “To Watch, And Probably Review” which at this point has over 63 movies. If only my ambition could translate into reality. Anyway, missing so many movies that got nominated for the Academy’s, I watched it halfheartedly. I declared that Boyhood should have won all the awards. I tweeted about what the stars wore on the red carpet (I’ll admit in retrospect, I’m a bit ashamed now) and the jokes that were cracked. I dismissed the awards and that they didn’t hold anything for me. Who was I kidding, I just wasn’t prepared for them like every year. So to redeem myself, I’m going in the ascending order of my list and somehow The Heart Machine happened to be the oldest record on the list. I will try my best to review the less heard of movies because at this point I’m too late to review the likes of Birdman, Selma, Life Itself, etc and say anything that you don’t already know.
Honestly, I was so afraid going into this movie. Somewhere at the back of my mind I knew exactly where this was going to take me when the first scene panned into perspective. Hazy, discotheque lights, a hum of music that is borderline annoying, strobe lights, bodies rubbing against each other (or what you may call a form of dancing?), and finally an ordinary looking man, sitting alone in this dimly lit, party place with a phone in his hand. Key word here being ‘alone’.
The man in question is Cody (John Gallagher Jr.), an average 20-something living in Brooklyn, at a crossroads in his life, working on commission basis which also sometimes means not really working at all. Cody comes across as a person with a fairly simple understanding of things and doesn’t have any shining characteristics that I can possibly outline to make him seem different from your regular 20 something year old. Cody is a part of the generation that relies heavily on the Internet for communication and information as a means of finding semblance in his life. He meets a beautiful, doe-eyed girl named Virginia (Kate Lyn Sheil) on an online dating website and after a pleasant initial encounter they plan to go steady with each other. What this movie emphasizes on, that I find a bit ridiculous is how Virginia being in Berlin and Cody in New York is such a huge, huge problem.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for long-distance-met-the-man-of-my-dreams-on-the-world-wide-web scenario. The Heart Machine weaves in a very great ambiguity about this distance that honestly makes no sense to me.
So Cody and Virginia have faith in their relationship and commit to each other. They share the normal Skype sessions and there is a lot that they talk over the internet that I don’t find many couples talking about when they see each other on a regular basis. We take for granted proximity, we assume that people will always be around and that that funny incident from earlier in the day can wait until there are more listeners. Long-distance relationships put that all in perspective.
Virginia on one hand has dirty secrets of her own. She’s far from faithful to Cody and has herself up for grabs on various other online media. There are hook-up apps and missed connections and somehow the ways and means of getting someone to come to you at any given time of day are endless. None of this feels like I’m spoiling anything for you. The timeline of the movie is not linear and that comes to light soon enough. So there’s no surprise when you find Virginia roaming streets that seem less like Berlin but more like New York.
I believe the movie being shown from the perspective of Cody may put all the harsh light on Virginia’s promiscuity. But for the life of me, I couldn’t stand him. I just couldn’t. Cody soon begins to doubt that maybe Virginia isn’t in Berlin. Instead of questioning and cross-questioning her, he stalks her social media to figure out for himself. He goes to obnoxious lengths and exhibits crazy stalker behaviour. All of this, for someone who he’s in a committed relationship with, Skype video calls daily, loves and you’d automatically assume, trusts.
And that’s why The Heart Machine frightened me. Love need not be synonymous to trust and like Cody puts it, “It’s the not knowing that kills me”.
I’m unsure about the message Heart Machine is trying to project. It doesn’t so much as warn about the perils of online relationships as much as determines that obsessing over someone you love and constantly doubting them is not healthy. That not always knowing things is okay and that the digital age is constantly trying to counter that. I fail to see why The Heart Machine could be compared to brilliant pieces of cinema such as Spike Jonze’s Her, the movie trailer is misleading and unlike Her there are no heart-wrenching moments, beautiful cinematography or likeable characters. The Heart Machine drags and lulls and tries very hard to not be a cliché and in the process ends up being exactly that.
I will say to its credit that the movie ends as it should and I wouldn’t change a thing about the ending. Yes, it’s tragic but nonetheless quite appropriate. Watch The Heart Machine keeping in mind it does not have much to its credit except that its an indie movie and that even if it doesn’t do great things for you, you won’t really be able to make yourself forget it.
Sometimes after watching a movie I feel like I have something that I simply have to say about it; as though there is a storm of words inside my mind that might be harmful to me if I don’t let it all out. I’ve watched so many movies but there has never been a question about why I only review say 1 out of every 10 movies that I stream. By that I mean, why have I never questioned myself about this? I’m passionate about films and I also wouldn’t mind doing this professionally someday but why am I so selective and on what basis? And now it beckons the question: what really makes a movie good or bad and thereafter review worthy for Sloppy Etymology?
The absolute honest answer to that is – a movie needs to stir something inside me. It must, at best, confound me completely at the start and maybe even after the fact, at times. I want to ensure that when I’m reviewing it I’m not merely stating facts. My reviews delve into personal territories so often and I find that they bring out something more in me when I write them and it’s really the most satiating feeling, ever.
Disconnect (2012) reminds me why I enjoy writing movie reviews. It’s the kind of movie that I search for all over and meanwhile, in its quest, end up watching thirty-forty mediocre movies. I don’t think I say this outright at all, (for fear of sounding imposing and thereby scaring away my tiny reader audience) but PLEASE watch this movie.
As the name suggests, Disconnect is a drama that evolves into a very riveting thriller around the various facets of technological advancements and the subsequent consequences when we cannot disconnect from it. Several parallel storylines involving an upcoming journalist, a bunch of adolescent boys, a workaholic father, another extremely dictatorial father and a couple grieving over their dead child. The stories are not interconnected in a tacky way like Valentine’s Day or any other movie that decides to rope in more than one leading story. There’s only one instance of a connection and overlap between two stories and is in no way detrimental to the independent stories.
What I enjoyed best about Disconnect is how engrossing it is. I didn’t think about anything else while watching it. The movie does not linger over unwanted details and unnecessary exchanges between characters to create back story. It does not scream out a warning message to scare audiences regarding the perils of the Internet realm. It never creates a distinction between harm-inflictors and their victims. You will not be able to hate any of these characters no matter what side of the rope they come out on. I found myself rooting for every person in all four stories.
I believe the movie depicts real life right down to the nitty-gritty details without making you feel too uncomfortable. If you’re looking for something very sore and bothersome with this type of Wired disadvantage story-line you should go watch Trust (2010) and after that never be able to trust anyone ever again. But really, we don’t need that kind of brutal reality. Besides, everyone seems to have enough trust issues and insecurities anyway nowadays.
I would go into the details about each story but I suppose it would be more enjoyable if you entered and inhabited these stories without much prior knowledge. It was a complete delight for me because I was unaware. You tend to notice things with more keenness without much forewarning, is what I’ve come to understand now. As the movie progresses to its crescendo, things simultaneously come together and fall apart. While I could argue at length that each of the stories ends perfectly, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that somehow they’re all happy endings. They’re not.
The slow-motion climatic sequence and the Sigur-Ros music score, the brilliant cast and crisp editing and script make Disconnect one of the best movies I’ve seen in the past year. I like to believe that sometimes filmmakers, writers, directors put a piece of themselves in a movie and that’s one of the reasons they are motivated to make it. Very often, viewers miss that peak moment and maybe that’s when they pass it off by saying the movie made little sense or that it just wasn’t a good movie.
With Disconnect, not for a single moment will you feel like you’re being led astray. The message is crystal clear, it’s not the Internet that we need to disconnect from but our lack of humanity and the way we lead our lives, the morals and virtues that we appraise ourselves with so proudly but never really believe in, the need to be loved but still never express it – keeping that in mind I would say it’s pretty obvious where lies the actual Disconnect.
I have seen quite a few Pakistani films, and though the culture there is similar to my life, this is the first Iranian film I watched. I largely relied on the subtitles, except for the salaams and the salutations that are normal in everyday Muslim conversation but be rest assured this movie is relatable to anyone from any cultural background.
“A Separation” is an Asghar Farhadi film revolving around a Muslim family in Iran who get caught up in the Iranian justice system over an issue that initially seemed trivial but no sooner got out of control. Crisp direction, tightly held camera work and staged-play kind of feel to the acting are distinct features of this movie. As the very title suggests, the movie commences with the separation of Nader and Simin, the husband and wife over conflicting interests about their adolescent child, Termeh’s future. While both Nader and Simin might not have any grave problems in their relationship with each other, they both desire different things and therefore decide to part ways. What they don’t realize, neither at the beginning nor when things have already gone out of hand much later, that with a little patience and steady thinking they could’ve found reasonable middle ground. But we’ll get to that later, I suppose.
While Simin is a strongly opinionated woman in a headscarf, she believes her daughter, Termeh will not be able to achieve a steady future in this country. Simin wants the family to move abroad so that Termeh can claim a better education right in her formative years. Nader, on the other hand, is a man who is invariably and repeatedly caught in his own turmoil. His father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and is now in need of personal care and attention. Nader and Simin both have their own justifiable reasons for wanting what they want and right at the start you figure out that their own personal interests, too, somehow end up forming a part of what they desire.
Simin: “Does he even know you’re his son?”
Nader: “I know that he is my father.”
The movie commences with the divorced couple trying to get along with their newly separated lives. When Simin packs her bags to leave, Termeh decides to stick with her father. Nader, now left on his own accord is unable to take care of the daily chores along with his absent-minded father’s time-to-time requirements. He employs a house maid, Razieh to look after the work while he is away at work. Little did he know what that decision would lead to.
I’m not sure revealing any more about the story would be fair and would then let me label this review spoiler free. Also, I will tell you that the point of conflict strikes in very early on in the movie. When Nader gets himself into a situation that could affect Termeh’s life, too, Simin intervenes. The movie surrounds five characters, Simin and Nader, Termeh, and the house maid, Razieh and her husband Hojjat. The audience is offered a somewhat brief exposition of every character throughout the movie. Nothing about any of these characters is stereotypical.
Although Hojjat is an extremely short-tempered and aggressive man, quick to make loud accusations you realize that he, too, is facing his own demons in the form of unemployment, the visible horizon of oncoming poverty and a deep resentment towards people who are relatively better off. Razieh, on the other hand, who I loathed very much, is actually one of those extremely devout Muslim women, almost on borderline paranoid. Some of her accusations made me cringe but even then I realized where it’s coming from. When you believe in certain things too strongly, nothing anyone says or does will make little sense. You will always see only what you wish to see. You might even be lying but it will feel like the truth. It’s not even politicians or sociopaths that we need to be scared of, it’s these people who will use religion in their defense and offence.
While every character has depth and reason behind their every action, none of them are entirely right or entirely in the wrong. That is what makes this so difficult. You cannot even decide who to sympathize with, who to hate, who to feel protective about. That last emotion, maybe you can appoint that to Termeh. Little Termeh who is implicitly manipulated among all these moral dilemmas and conflicts. Termeh, is the heart of the film. Her steady, observant eyes behind those glasses are ever so endearing. When she cries, you know Nader would do anything to make it better. Even though he chooses to stay in Iran for his father’s sake, he isn’t in any way overlooking Termeh’s education and upbringing, altogether.
A major plot twist towards the end which you may or may not have seen coming is the crescendo in the movie. Out of the many obscure moments and behaviours, this is a revelation, a clarity. A Separation cannot be called an emotional drama of sorts. The basic design of the storyline is, that there is no fixed storyline. It’s just a sequence of events happening one after the other. The movie does a wonderful job at making you feel déjà vu at several instances. Who hasn’t witnessed their parents fighting as a child and secretly feared what might happen to you if they decided to “Divorce” or when a terminally ill family member embarrasses themselves and you find yourself feeling pity for them, tell me that at the time you didn’t cry yourself to sleep. Numerous such raw, stunning imagery is depicted in this movie and is rather overwhelming.
What left an indelible mark on me more than anything was the way the movie concluded. Anyone who knows me fairly well will know what endings appeal to me the most. A Separation rightly ends the intense, fantastically raw and titular depiction of human nature criticisms in the most ambiguous manner.