Saturday, June 22, 2024

“SISTER MIDNIGHT”

THE STORY – In Mumbai, an arranged marriage spirals into darkness as the spineless husband watches his wife morph into a ruthless, feral force within their marital confines.

THE CAST – Radhika Apte, Ashok Pathak, Chhaya Kadams & Dev Raaz

THE TEAM – Karan Kandhari (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 110 Minutes


Uma (Radhika Apte) is a young woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. We first see her bound to a new home with her new husband, Gopal (Ashok Pathak), a man whom she thought was her childhood sweetheart but who she has, in reality, only met a handful of times as children. This is the sequel to the arranged marriage; the wedding night is a dud. They are both unequipped to deal with their conjugal duties. As Gopal retreats to work and drink, Uma begins to realize she hasn’t got a clue how to do anything. Some of this beggars belief. It’s understandable that she arrives from her small village unable to cook, but she cannot chop a vegetable? Then again, we know very little about her background except for a hint that she’s troublesome, and the arranged marriage might have been a way to get rid of her.

A neighbor who appears at first to be as unfriendly as the rest of the neighborhood, Sheetal (Chhaya Kadams), turns out to be something of an ally, teaching her important skills and life hacks – men are stupid, if the food is spicy they think it’s good – and whiling away the boring hours. They go on a stroll around the neighborhood and wonder whether to take a left at the garbage dump or a right at the garbage cans. Sverre Sørdal’s camera captures Mumbai in all its crumbling glory, buzzing green neon nighttime, and claustrophobic spaces. Uma and Gopal’s flat looks sticky, and it’s no wonder that, at first, Gopal and Uma want to spend as little time there as possible.

The film has a symbiotic relationship with Uma. They’re snappy and funny, direct and foulmouthed, angry and impatient, but also somewhat wistful when given a chance. Britain-based Kandhari contains Apte’s performance in tightly controlled mise-en-scène, like a comic book panel with some Wes Anderson tracking shots and a syncopated comedic editing style straight out of the Edgar Wright playbook. Add to this the magical route that the plot takes in the movie’s second half, and we are soon in a cinematic world with a capital “C.” The world of the movie was never naturalistic, to begin with, so the stop motion animation that bleeds into the film to visualize a nighttime activity that Uma is embarking on isn’t the breach it might otherwise have been. But the fact that so much is so knowingly ironic means that whatever the film had to say about the lived experience of poverty and arranged marriage is lost in its own whimsy.

This is not to say that “Sister Midnight” isn’t very funny at times, infused by the glaring presence of Apte’s Uma and the comic stoicism of Pathak’s Gopal. But with every edit punctuating a point and every other line a punchline, it begins to feel like an email tripping over its exclamation marks. Kandahari’s punkish verve rarely lags, but his Mumbai-based marriage comedy does. One wants to implore him to take a minute and catch his breath as he struggles to escape the gravity of his film’s forceful influences.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Youth and punkish attitude aplenty.

THE BAD - Overall the film feels pretty vacant.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Youth and punkish attitude aplenty.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Overall the film feels pretty vacant.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"SISTER MIDNIGHT"