Friday, April 19, 2024

“THE QUEEN OF MY DREAMS”

THE STORY – Pakistani Muslim Mariam and her Canadian-born daughter Azra come of age in two different eras against the backdrop of a shared obsession with Bollywood fantasy.

THE CAST – Amrit Kaur, Nimra Bucha & Hamza Haq

THE TEAM – Fawzia Mirza (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 97 Minutes


Mothers and daughters have always had tricky relationships. As society has evolved and expectations of young women have shifted, some mothers forget their own youthful rebellions, unwittingly falling into the same traps as their mothers did. Fawzia Mirza’s “The Queen of My Dreams” directly engages with this by employing a bifurcated structure and double casting to connect a mother and daughter across decades and continents in a uniquely cinematic way. This deep dive into Pakistani culture does what all the best art should do: It takes a culturally specific story and turns it into something universal.

Azra (Amrit Kaur) is studying to be an actress at University when her father dies of a heart attack on a trip to visit family at home in Pakistan. Now, this thoroughly modern woman must go to Pakistan for the funeral, which means dealing with her very traditional mother, Mariam (Nimra Bucha), and the male-centric Muslim funeral rituals. Azra hates traveling all this way and being around family that doesn’t understand her. She especially doesn’t understand why her mother, who had wanted to be an actress herself when she was young, isn’t more upset about being left out of so many of her husband’s last rites. Intertwined with this is the story of how her mother and father met, fell in love, and bucked convention to be together.

These young women faced different issues, but they’re connected to how Pakistani culture treats women and how the expectations placed on them are at odds with the world at large. Azra, who is a lesbian, wants to be an actress and mourn her father’s death with the male members of her family, whereas her mother didn’t want to pretend to be someone she wasn’t to be married off. When she meets her future husband Hassan (Hamza Haq) at the movies, she’s initially suspicious of being set up, but they have chemistry, and he supports her dreams. Luckily for her, he’s a doctor, which impresses her parents. But will his upcoming residency in Canada cause her traditional mother to put a kibosh on the wedding?

In a stroke of genius, Kaur also plays the mother in these flashbacks, highlighting the similarities between the two women. Every mother was a daughter once, dealing with her own mother, and Kaur finds subtle ways to physically differentiate the characters while keeping their inner lives similar but distinct. In the flashbacks, she radiates a lust for life, lighting up the screen with her wide-open face, while, in the present, her slightly slumped posture and dagger-like eyes communicate how much she does not want to be bothered. Without her charismatic, vivacious performance, the film wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does.

Mirza shows complete control over her story and how she wants to tell it. The transitions between the two timelines are wonderfully edited, using specific images and music to make it easier to follow and differentiate between them. Fantasy sequences recreating Azra and her mother’s favorite old movie flawlessly capture the look and feel of old Bollywood films. Mirza’s ability to delve into her characters is most impressive, though, without overstating the parallels between Azra and her mother. This creates empathy for both women as we observe how much more similar they are than they believe themselves to be. When the reason for Mariam’s embrace of traditional values finally arrives, it creates even more empathy, driving home the love both women have for their family. Their embracing of each other at the film’s end feels equally joyous and sad, as the film never forgets that the impetus for this deeper connection is Hassan’s death. Mirza’s faultless control over the film’s tone, even as it ping-pongs back and forth between the two timelines, proves vital to the film’s emotional success.

Similarly vital is the interrogation of Muslim traditions: a fantastic extended tracking shot through different rooms of the house of mourning is stark in its contrast, showing women praying and caring for each other while the men stoically prepare and perform rituals. Mirza clearly has strong feelings about the role of women in Muslim cultures, but the film never turns into a diatribe. She keeps the focus on her central characters and their relationship, exploring the idiosyncrasies of Muslim culture through their respective journeys. This is the most potent kind of storytelling — the kind that connects us so deeply to its characters that we don’t need personal experience with their heritage to understand it or empathize with their feelings about it. With “The Queen of My Dreams,” Mirza proves herself to be a gifted storyteller and filmmaker who will hopefully share many cinematic stories with us for years to come.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - A vibrant portrait of mother and daughter told in a unique framework. Lead actress Amrit Kaur delivers a star-making performance in a dual role.

THE BAD - Nothing

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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Dan Bayer
Dan Bayer
Performer since birth, tap dancer since the age of 10. Life-long book, film and theatre lover.

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>A vibrant portrait of mother and daughter told in a unique framework. Lead actress Amrit Kaur delivers a star-making performance in a dual role.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Nothing<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"THE QUEEN OF MY DREAMS"