Young Bangladeshi, Nazneem (Tannishtha Chatterjee) is sent to London, leaving behind her beloved sister and home, for an arranged marriage and a new life. Trapped within the four walls of her flat in Brick Lane, East London, and in a loveless marriage with the middle aged Chanu (Satish Kaushik), complete with two daughters. She fears her soul is quietly dying. Her sister Hasina (Zafreen), meanwhile, continues to live a carefree life back in Bangladesh, stumbling from one adventure to the next. Then one day, Karim (Christopher Simpson) knocks on her door with a consignment of garments for hemming, casual work she has taken on for extra money. Age difference aside, Karim and Nazneem begin to nurture a relationship. But with the terrorist outrage in New York on September 11, 2001, Karim becomes more activist, while Nazneem discovers more about herself and her new world.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's important to note that Brick Lane is not a political film and that the events of 9/11 are incidental to the story of Nazneem (Tannishtha Chatterjee). We first meet the child Nazneem in Bangladesh, frolicking with her sister, and quickly jump to Nazneem with one pre-teen and one teenage daughter, living in a housing estate in London's E1, a historic gathering place for immigrants. Her husband Chanu (Satish Kaushik) is an underachiever, overweight and didactic. She lives more like a silent servant than fully functioning wife. The teenager is rebellious. The world outside is chaotic. Nazneem longs for what she thinks of as home, the fields and rivers of her village.
When she begins to sew hems for garments in the local cottage industry of the rag trade, she meets the young Karim, a romantic young man who could almost be her son. His mother is her age ... both are young. From here, the film becomes more focused on Nazneem's growing confidence and the conflicts within the family. It's a story about one character and her journey from displaced person to a woman of substance.
Tannishtha Chatterjee, known in India for film and theatre work, is excellent as the vulnerable, isolated young woman who gradually builds herself into a resilient survivor who can smile and tame the pain of her world. She takes to heart her mother's mantra, that the test of life is to endure. She does that, but by the end of the film, she does more than endure; she overcomes.
Satish Kauchik, a veteran actor and comedian, is superb, too, as the husband and father who is a bit of a failure but he won't admit it, keeping up a façade of brusque success. Naeema Begum delivers a terrific characterisation as the angst ridden teenager who senses her mother's pain, and Christopher Simpson makes Karim at once engaging and chilling as the young man who is easily politicised, ready to explode.
There are layers to the film in every respect, and the craftsmanship is first class, with great music to underscore the drama and the relationships.
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BRICK LANE (M)
CAST: Tannishtha Chatterjee, Satish Kaushik, Christopher Simpson, Naeema Begum, Zafreen
PRODUCER: Chris Collins, Alison Owen,
DIRECTOR: Sarah Gavron
SCRIPT: Laura Jones, Abi Morgan (novel by Monica Ali)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robbie Ryan
EDITOR: Melanie Oliver
MUSIC: Jocelyn Pook
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Simon Elliott
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 20, 2008