Thursday, June 13, 2024

“ALL WE IMAGINE AS LIGHT”

THE STORY – In Mumbai, Nurse Prabha’s routine is troubled when she receives an unexpected gift from her estranged husband. Her younger roommate, Anu, tries in vain to find a spot in the city to be intimate with her boyfriend.

THE CAST – Kani Kusruti, Divya Prabha, Chhaya Kadam & Hridhu Haroon

THE TEAMPayal Kapadia (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 115 Minutes


It’s quite thrilling getting the chance to glimpse into a world that for many seems elusive. There is a bevy of landscapes that exist with interesting stories to tell, and sadly so many of them do not get the attention they deserve. It is still possible to be thrilled by the familiar, taking comfort in the viewpoints that have become so dominant in the culture that easing back into them is an entertaining experience that does not wane. However, if one ventures slightly beyond the scope that has seemingly been ever-present, you will find a rich tapestry of engrossing tales. They may have been underserviced, but that’s precisely why they have so much power. “All We Imagine as Light” sets its gaze upon a group that does not get to have their voices heard as prevalent as they should, and what it presents is a beautifully rendered examination.

Set in Mumbai, the focus is predominately on two women living their lives by a different set of principles. For Nurse Prabha (Kani Kusruti), she attempts to maintain her professionalism while being closed off from the rest of the world. Her husband is already working abroad and she feels the sense of isolation envelop her. It’s a stark contrast to Anu (Divya Prabha), her colleague and roommate, who is a more outgoing spirit wrestling with her family’s pressure to marry and is pursuing her own romantic interests with her boyfriend, Shiaz (Hridhu Haroon). While possessing different personalities, both have a longing for more fulfillment outside of their existence. When their co-worker Parvaty (Chhaya Kadam) is forced to leave her apartment and return to her old village, the pair accompany her to assist. This journey will reveal a great deal about their personal drives and the inner truths that will have a profound effect on their outlook.

It can, admittedly, take a moment to fully settle into the world that writer-director Payal Kapadia is constructing here. The audience is slowly lowered into what feels like a somber meditation, and the initial pace can seem like it’s difficult to build the momentum. However, a fascinating portrait is showcased that erases any of those concerns in due time. The atmosphere is quiet but also intensely intimate, peeling back the layers of these women to exhibit a complicated set of desires and insecurities that drive their decisions. The analysis of their interiority rings out as a grand testament to their nuanced ambitions. They are not simply one type striving to transform into another binary; the passion for their careers is balanced by more personal cravings. The lust that feels so free to indulge in comes with a genuine concern for familial obligation. There are no easy paths in life, but the commentary is abundant with details that give vibrancy to these characters, making them endearing and wholly captivating.

It is through this method of penetrative storytelling that so much is unearthed in not just these individuals but the environment they exist within. The dreamy cinematography by Ranabir Das captures the congested streets of Mumbai with a majesty that feels reserved only for popular Western locales like New York City or Paris. There is a dynamism brought to stunning life in the active community that bombards these avenues with a celebratory culture, intentionally at odds with the sullen melancholy that is thick in the air. When the perspective shifts to the more rural setting, the sense of elation does not disappear with it. Here is a place where the emotions feel more defined, as if given the breathing room to be fully expressive. Additionally, the sex scenes have an alluring tenderness that displays the genuine bond being formed, and the catharsis that affirms the choices that must be made in life is potently realized. Even the humorous asides are authentic in allowing for this kinship between these women to form in an intriguing manner.

Another element that is absolutely a wonder to behold is every single one of these performances. Each actor is able to mine such emotional depths that bring a great complexity to their portrayals. There is an entire ocean that Kusruti taps into that gives such an earnest sadness to her character that never tips to the point of overwhelming. She navigates this tricky territory with a yearning for something more satisfying which manifests in a real awakening, and her performance elegantly demonstrates this state of mind. She is simply magnificent. Similar sentiments are felt for Prabha, a more beguiling personality whose bubbly nature is immediately charming. However, she also presents the layered facets beneath the surface and provides a soulful portrayal. Even Kadam is effective for more overt comedy that comes at just the right times, and Haroon is exceptional in his turn as well. Not only is the chemistry he shares with Prabha warmly embraced but he, too, is given a sophisticated viewpoint of his own, working in tandem with the overall themes of self-fulfillment that is gorgeously rendered. The entire cast does an amazing job at giving dimensions to their individual portrayals, but are also working immensely well as a cohesive whole.

If one is hesitant at the very start of “All We Imagine as Light” and is trepidatious to forge ahead, it is understandable. The beginning of the film requires a slow ease into the narrative, which can be laborious to endure for some. However, the tone is established very quickly and immediately, one is treated to a treasure trove of absorbing storytelling. The filmmaking uses every inch of its craft, from the textured photography to the compelling musical atmosphere, to construct a mesmerizing scenery. The thematic foundations being probed are abundant in riveting observations, anchored by a collection of striking performances that only add value to this multifaceted character study. This is another amazing opportunity to dive into a group of stories that are entitled to a spotlight because it exposes such fertile ground for unique exploration, resulting in one of the year’s best films.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Payal Kapadia creates a richly textured world that explores the lives of intriguing women. Their stories are fascinating, complex and riveting to unfold, making for captivating storytelling. The crafts provide an enticing atmosphere with great cinematography and a compelling score. All the performances are exceptionally layered and engrossing.

THE BAD - The film has a slow start which can cause a bit of restlessness before the narrative fully settles.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best International Feature

THE FINAL SCORE - 9/10

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Josh Parham
Josh Parhamhttps://nextbestpicture.com
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Payal Kapadia creates a richly textured world that explores the lives of intriguing women. Their stories are fascinating, complex and riveting to unfold, making for captivating storytelling. The crafts provide an enticing atmosphere with great cinematography and a compelling score. All the performances are exceptionally layered and engrossing.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The film has a slow start which can cause a bit of restlessness before the narrative fully settles.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-international-feature/">Best International Feature</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>9/10<br><br>"ALL WE IMAGINE AS LIGHT"