Director: Sarah Gavron
Starring: Tannishtha Chatterjee, Satish Kaushik, Christopher Simpson
An unbiased perspective on a poor adaptation
Adapted for the screen from the novel by Monica Ali, ‘Brick Lane’ tells the story of ‘Nazneen’, a young conceited woman forced into an arranged marriage and a new life in London. The events that follow depict a search for ones self, and a search for the courage to make your own fate.
This was a film which seemed very unsure of itself; from beginning to end it was rife with inconsistencies.
We start with a brief setup, a short insight into our protagonists’ childhood in India with a retrospective narrative. While clear it was a flashback sequence (one of many, may I add), this had some nice imagery to it and set the mood for our sudden jump to Brick Lane, London.
The first few shots of the area in which ‘Nazneen’ (Tannishtha Chatterjee) lives had an appealing effect. Whilst visually coming across as so very obviously British, we had an overlapping soundtrack of traditional Indian influence which gave an interesting contradiction. This contradiction would have been a good thing to carry throughout; however, sometimes a regular cinematic ambient composition was intertwined in certain scenes, which is the first of our inconsistencies as this mix did not work.
It was difficult to distinguish between traditional Indian culture, and British stereotypes of Indian culture. ‘Nazneen’ lives in a small flat, in a loveless marriage with two daughters, and a husband who has thus far been designed to be a hated figure from the offset. Whilst the husband, ‘Chanu’ (Satish Kaushik), appeared to have typical traditional values, he came across with some very stereotypical personality aspects of how we preconceive an Indian husband, living in England, to be.
One of ‘Chanu’s traditional persona elements was that he was the man of the house, therefore he should be the main provider. With this prominent ego as the characters base temperament, it’s no surprise that he is greatly disheartened by ‘Nazneen’ receiving a sewing machine from a friendly neighbour. With an assumedly natural talent for sewing, she soon gets some small decent business from a young man, ‘Karim’ (Christopher Simpson), who initially seems to be the perfect match for ‘Nazneen’, who quickly develops a genuine infatuation towards ‘Karim’ for the first time in her life. This was a well incorporated element of a new experience, though the progress of this aspect gave the inclination of ‘too much, too soon’ and doesn’t give the audience enough time to develop a form of emotional connection with this particular plotline.
It was also a bit challenging to develop a sense of interest in any character that wasn’t ‘Nazneen’. While each character was not without their own form of development, the character development was fairly static. In the sense that you become familiarised with the current persona of a character, who suddenly displays a set of new traits, making it hard to comprehend the reasoning behind the actions of certain characters. ‘Karim’ is a good example of this.
Racism is an element that was fairly predictable, and was built upon with various riots and anti-terrorism movements surrounding ‘9/11’. However this element seemed to begin congregating towards something, but was dropped during its early introduction and then later brought back in deep into it, aspects of which could only be assumed to fill in any gaps. There were many sequences within the film like this, which is why it is inconsistent.
There were other moments of the film which felt like they were important, but were severely underplayed. I couldn’t help but feel that these were elements possibly expanded upon in the book. In this sense I kind of want to read the book, but this is not with good reason.
It is my personal belief that when adapting something across mediums, they should perform as separate entities and have the natural ability to work well on their own. Unfortunately with this film it feels like the novel would be required to back up various sections of plot during the course of the film. If you have read the book and while reading this you disagree, then you have just proven my point.
This gave the accumulated feeling that the writers tried to incorporate as much of the book as possible into the screenplay, and thus becoming more of a film aimed towards fans of the original medium rather than appealing to new audiences.
This was a major drawback for the film, and began to give the impression that this was structurally unsound.
Added to this, we have various points of symbolism in the beginning, as well as metaphors but these seem to dwindle across the span of the film, and gradually making the film fairly empty and bland the closer to the end we get.
As well as this, the acting was overall none too special. There was nobody notably bad, but there also wasn’t anybody exceptional and combined together with the aforementioned discrepancies, we have a fairly bland and empty form of emotional contempt for the audience.
Resultantly, the film felt like it had a very simple story which was trying to be controversial or somewhat edgy by basing itself around typical Indian tradition, which for the most part felt more like stereotypes than factual tradition.
Though while there is much wrong with it, the story itself is actually none too bad and is at the very least an interesting plot, which luckily keeps you watching.
This had the potential to be a fairly decent film had the symbolism been consistent, and the structure could have been a lot better. Rather than making it longer to compensate for aspects of the book they wanted to incorporate, it is possible that certain parts could have been cut out rather than being underplayed.
Overall I am still torn as to my personal feelings towards this film, and give it 5 out of 10 for I am literally stuck in the middle.
This film is recommended for people who enjoyed the book, but for people who have not; I strongly discourage this film.