By Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald
Life has not been kind to Nazneen, a watchful immigrant woman living with her husband and daughters in a London neighborhood. At 17, she left behind her beloved sister in Bangladesh for a cold new country and an arranged marriage. Her first-born child, a son, died in his crib. Her world is as cramped and claustrophobic in England as it was lush and glorious back home when she was happy.
Nazneen’s gradual awakening to desire is the delicate foundation of Brick Lane, a slow-moving but heartfelt film based on the novel by Monica Ali. It is beautifully shot, contrasting vibrant colors (Nazneen’s saris, the waving green fields of her home village) with the dank dullness of the family’s small English flat, and director Sarah Gavron is confident enough to take her time revealing her poignant story. She uses great restraint in unleashing Nazneen’s mounting, but largely silent, desperation as her husband Chanu (Satish Kaushik) resigns from his job then reacts poorly to her decision to take in work as a seamstress. Most disturbing to Nazneen, though, is her reaction to handsome young Karim (Christopher Simpson) who delivers the clothes she works on each week.
As Nazneen, Tannishtha Chatterjee proves to be the quiet force that drives the film, ably projecting a depth of emotion with few words. Her measured response to the things that anger or jolt her — her husband’s oblivious nattering or her oldest daughter’s sullen rebellions — can be frustrating, but she’s always a fully realized character, a woman who lives protectively in her head. When she finally learns to live in the world she thought she hated, her hard-won freedoms are a pleasure to behold.
Cast: Tannishtha Chatterjee, Satish Kaushik, Christopher Simpson
Director: Sarah Gavron
Screenwriters: Laura Jones, Abi Morgan. Based on the novel by Monica Ali.
Producers: Chris Collins, Alison Owen
A Sony Pictures Classics release. Running time: 102 minutes. Some sexuality, brief strong language. In Miami-Dade only: South Beach.