We had really good session last Tuesday after watching “Brick Lane,” a film based on Bangladeshi-British author Monica Ali’s first novel of the same name.
“Brick Lane” tells of the story of a young Bangladeshi woman named Nazneen who is married her off in an arranged marriage to an “educated” Bangladeshi man in London, England — where she has lived a dull life for about 20 years, trapped in an existence with a husband she seems to have outgrown — when the main part of the story picks up.
Brick Lane is the street in London where Nazneen, her husband Chanu, and their two daughters live — but it’s also, symbolically, according to the film’s director Sarah Gavron, “a sanctuary to successive waves of immigrants searching for home. That search, rather than the bricks and mortar of the street, is at the heart of the story.”
The theme of “searching” is pervasive throughout the film — whether it be immigrants, in general, searching for a home and a better way of life, or Nazneen searching her soul and examining her own identity and place in the world, or groups of young Islamic activists seeking to find their place in a post-9/11 London where paranoia and retribution seem more commonplace than tolerance and understanding.
I think everyone at our discussion agreed that the multiple layers in which the theme played out made “Brick Lane” a really interesting film to watch. It’s a film that deals with feminism, egalitarianism, and racial equality and religious stereotypes all rolled up into one. Even though it seemed to drag at times — which is somehow appropriate given how dull Nazneen’s life in London is portrayed for much of the story — there is always something there that keeps the viewer wanting to watch for more.