Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
South Africa/United Kingdom, 2007. Enlightenment Productions, DO Productions. Screenplay by Shamim Sarif, based on his novel. Cinematography by Michael Downie. Produced by Hanan Kattan. Music by Richard Blackford. Production Design by Tanya Van Tonder. Costume Design by Danielle Knox. Film Editing by David Martin.
It’s completely understandable if you want to run for the door when a movie features a sexually liberated woman giving a conservative housewife a book of romantic poetry to read as method of seduction; I think Sappho herself would jump out of her seat screaming and head for the nearest eco-friendly vegan oxygen bar. Lisa Ray plays an Indian housewife in 1950s South Africa whose imagination is captured by cafe owner Sheetal Sheth. The relationship that burgeons between them is highly flammable in a world where colouring outside the lines is not only likely to bring danger to one’s social life but to one’s life, period. Contrasting this is the police’s pursuit of Ray’s sister-in-law, who has flouted racial laws by marrying a white man, and Seth’s black business partner, who finds sympathy in the white woman who works at the post office. The dialogue is frequently awkward and many of the performances are trying too hard to be poignant, but it’s hard to resist the power of the story itself. Ray’s performance is indelible, perfectly pitched from beginning to end and provides the film with much of its class. The period is brought to life with taste and restraint and the whole thing is always delicious to look at, even when it’s calling up some very difficult emotional realities.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2007