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Here’s a homegrown debut that appears hellbent on snuffing out its own flickers of promise. Writer-director Sadia Saeed’s protagonist Arifa (Shermin Hassan) is a frustrated 28-year-old British Asian woman who works in insurance and lives at home with her parents. Scenes float by with a weird lack of urgency that doesn’t appear to be a conscious choice, jokes are muffled, and some of the performers fail to convince. The film can’t work as comedy, because the material isn’t up to snuff. As a character study, it struggles to wring much of note out of a heroine who may simply be too ordinary.
The odd thing is that Saeed seems aware of this shortcoming, working in scenes in which Arifa’s fumbling attempts at creative writing are offered a no-nonsense critique by her tutor. One of the latter’s observations – “This isn’t a story; it’s a magazine article” – reverberates loudly through the slice-of-life snapshots that follow, yet even a student-rag profile would demand more connective tissue than Saeed’s script provides. A naggingly unpersuasive strand involving Dad’s illegal tobacco smuggling operation generates less tension than the matter of which unworthy suitor our girl can shake off first. That quandary, in turn, becomes secondary to minor disputes in newsagents and aerobics classes.
By far the film’s strongest suit is Hassan’s bright and likable performance, revealing an inner spark that makes the character less of a pushover than she initially seems. It may serve this performer well should she get her hands on more fortified, lived-in writing.
A sparse piano score, by Level 42’s Mike Lindup, adds a note or two of atmosphere, and cinematographer Giuseppe Pignone collates some attractive glimpses of Soho at Christmas and out-of-season Brighton. Yet too often what’s going on registers as humdrum in the extreme. At the risk of sounding like that creative writing tutor, it’s the kind of drama you might experience walking past an open door.
Source: The Guardian
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