Reviewing: Brick Lane (2007)

The film's main character, Nazneen Ahmed (Tannishta Chatterjee).

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

by Cole Albinder

The 2007 film Brick Lane (based on the novel of the same name by Monica Ali) gives us a look at the lifestyles that many of those in the Muslim community (specifically the Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Indians) were forced to lead. The film’s main character, Nazneen, is forced at a young age away from her sister and life in Bangladesh at the age of seventeen, during the 1980s. She is arranged to marry Chanu Ahmed, who is nearly twice her age, and they are to live in the Brick Lane section of London, England, which is home to the British Bangladeshi community.

As Nazneen grows into her role as wife to Chanu and mother to their two young daughters, she keeps herself sane by sewing clothes, sending and replying to letters from her sister, and striking up a close relationship with Kharim, a clothing worker who comes to her flat periodically. Her world is thrown into disarray (once more) when, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, racial tensions against her community force her and her family to consider moving back to Bangladesh.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The film explores the tensions that arose in the wake of 9/11. As we all know, the events of 9/11 sent our world into a state of shock, one from which we may never recover. It caused us to question our safety, our well-being as a nation, and our relationships with those of other cultures. It forced those not young enough to understand what happened to understand, to realize that the barriers protecting one’s country were not as all-powerful as we were lead to believe. Similar acts of terrorism in other countries have forced its inhabitants to embrace that sad and scary truth as well, as this film shows.

Nazneen (Tannishta Chatterjee) and Kharim (Christopher Simpson).

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Brick Lane does a superb job of putting the audience in the shoes of its characters, in addition to giving each one of them a voice and a three-dimensional characterization.  While I would have liked to see a bit more of the family dynamic amongst the Ahmeds, the film itself stands as a powerful commentary on the impact of terrorism as a whole, especially in regards to a community that is cruelly blamed for those events.

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