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Vol. LXII, No. 30
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

LOVE CAN FLOURISH IN THE MOST UNUSUAL PLACES: After enduring 16 years of a loveless arranged marriage, Nazneen (Tannishtha Chatterjee, right) finds romance in what appears to be a clothing factory in London and falls in love with Karim (Christopher Simpson).

Brick Lane: Arranged Marriage at Center of Cross-Cultural Drama

Kam Williams

Nazneen (Tannishtha Chatterjee) had a happy childhood while she was growing up in Bangladesh. However, the day her parents told her that they had arranged for her to marry Chanu Ahmed (Satish Kaushik), a man old enough to be her father, her life changed completely. Aside from their age difference, her future Bengali husband lived in London and demanded that his young bride move there and adapt to a culture with which she was completely unfamiliar.

She knew she would miss her family, especially her sister and confidante, Hasina (Zafreen), however, Nazneen reluctantly agreed to the marriage out of a sense of religious duty and respect for her parents. After all, she grew up in a strict Muslim environment in which women were taught not to question authority. But, despite trying her best to adapt to England and to her domineering husband, after 16 years in a loveless marriage she eventually becomes exasperated with being trapped in an East End flat with an insufferable husband.

She also has two daughters who are unhappy with their lot (Naeema Begum and Lana Rahman). They infuriate their father by adopting Western behavior like surfing the internet. Their complaints, such as “I didn’t ask to be born here,” fall on deaf ears.

At the same time, the frustrated Nazneen succumbs to the overtures of Karim (Christopher Simpson), a handsome young man who is a religious fanatic with an urgent political agenda of his own.

So unfolds Brick Lane, a cross-cultural cautionary tale set in the eighties, which warns of the pitfalls of settling for a loveless relationship. Based on the Monica Ali bestseller of the same name, the movie will likely appeal most to Muslim feminists who are already questioning the constraints of orthodox Islam.

The movie is a fascinating character study that offers insight into a pressing issue. Unfortunately, it is also the sort of movie that could get a fatwa issued against the director Sarah Gavron, who was fearless enough to make the picture.

Excellent (4 stars). Rated PG-13 for profanity and sexuality. Running time: 101 minutes. Studio: Sony Pictures Classics.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

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