Brick Lane (15.)
Directed by Sarah Gavron.
Starring Tannishtha Chatterjee, Satish Kaushihik, Christopher Simpson, Lalita Ahmed, Naeena Begum, Lana Rahman. 100 mins.
Welcome to the great multi-cultural melting pot of British Cinema, where everything gets boiled down into the same insipid stew. Those curious to find out what the deal is with Monica Ali’s Booker prize nominated novel Brick Lane will have to peer hard to make out anything of great interest in this plodding screen adaptation.
Nazneen (Chatterjee) leaves Bangladesh when she is 17, married off to an older man Chanu (Kaushihik) living in an estate off of London’s Brick Lane. Half her life later it’s 2001, she has two daughters and her husband has grown to be a rotund pompous fool. The barriers of her existence begin to recede just a little when she meets Karim (Simpson), a young man who might offer something more exciting than pin money opportunities with his deliveries of jeans to be sewn.
At times the film felt so oddly old fashioned as to be almost pre My Beautiful Launderette. But in the way that it immerses itself in an immigrant culture that is completely separate from the indigenous culture it is unusual. This is an extremely insular film, reflecting a life where Nazneen rarely ventures beyond the walls of her flat. Other than the occasional skinhead shouting abuse, the only white character is a lager swigging tattooed lady who lives in a nearby flat and whose sole bit of dialogue is to enquire, “Alright?”
The events of 9/11 are spoken of as changing the realities of their lives radically but as the viewer is stuck indoors for most of the film we never experience it except for when a male character sticks his head through the door to announce how things have really changed out there.
The whole film has the feel of being out of the loop. If someone wrote an Eastenders equivalent of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead it might look a bit like this - the love triangle characters who seemed so promising on paper but whose story fails to capture audience interest and who are just left to plod on off screen in an unobserved corner of Albert Square while great dramas are happening just around the corner.