Rehana Maryam Noor

RehanaDirector: Abdullah Mohammed Saad

Released in 2021

Dr Rehana Maryam Noor (Azmeri Haque Badhon) is a medical lecturer at a private college in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She is also a widow, the mother of a young child, and the sole breadwinner in her extended family, which includes aged parents and an unemployed brother.

In the opening scenes of the film, we get the idea that Rehana is the one keeping things together at home. We see her stressful and frustrated attempts to juggle a career and motherhood. The dim, blue lighting, the closeups of Rehana’s face, her limp headscarf and drooping shoulders, the stark and sterile settings of featureless offices, classrooms and the corridors are gloomy and uninviting. There is a sense of heaviness, of claustrophobia and pressure, of walls, both literal and metaphorical, closing in on her. There is also the impression of intense but unacknowledged loneliness. Rehana doesn’t seem to have friends. She has no one to confide in, to talk to. Is this by choice or because of circumstances?

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Right Now, Wrong Then

Right_Now,_Wrong_Then_(poster)Director: Hong Sang-soo
Released in 2015.

Not sure how I feel about this one. I like the style, the slice-of-life approach; the long, rambling, seemingly pointless conversations; and the awkwardness of the characters, each one blindsided by mundane circumstances. However, the main characters made me impatient and peevish. The female MC is slender and pale, with long silky hair in a messy updo. She has a soft, weak, almost childlike voice. She’s beautiful or is supposed to be. Personally, I find her looks bland, but this is a Korean film and I’m told the Koreans value skinny women with tiny faces and white skin.

This woman, Hee-jeong (Kim Min-hee), used to be a fashion model, but she has quit and is now living in her hometown, with her mother, and dabbling in painting. The male MC (Jung Jae-young) is a famous art house director, in town for a screening of one of his films and a Q&A session. The film comprises two parts in which the same events unfold with slightly different details and outcomes. Predictably, the director, Ham Chun-soo, is smitten by Hee-jeong in both versions. In the first version he’s rather slimy and sleazy; in the second, he’s foolish and sentimental. He’s thinking with his dick either way and I find him slightly despicable when he cries and tells her he’s in love and will never see her again because he’s married with two children. Still, it’s preferable to when he doesn’t mention his wife and is outed by Hee-jeong’s friends at a party. Whatever. He keeps telling Hee-jeong she’s beautiful, as if he’s saying something remarkable. But then again, she seems to fall for it.

Both man and woman are revealed to be entirely, tediously ordinary and this is probably why I am drawn to them. They are like people I know; people I work with; they might be me. Their behaviour makes me cringe, but I can empathise and sympathise. How surprising and gratifying to see real life in a film. How boring and, at the same time, riveting. No matter how annoyed I am by the silly actions of the characters, I can’t tear my eyes away because it’s like eavesdropping or reading personal letters secretly. I guess I like this film even if I dislike the characters in it.

Wifely Duties

I finished reading The Wife by Meg Wolitzer and also watched the film, starring Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce.

I didn’t expect to be, but I was disappointed by both.

I loved Glenn Close in the film — she was very good, but then I have not seen her falter in anything. Pryce was good too, his character was both pathetic and odious, and he portrayed him well. (He almost made me gag because he reminded me of a creepy someone in the lit scene here!)

However, I wasn’t convinced by the story. (No spoilers!)

In the film, I felt it was not developed sufficiently and so, I had trouble believing it. In the book, I didn’t think we got to know Joan well enough to understand why she did what she did. Intellectually it made sense, but not viscerally. We know Joan (a little) but we don’t feel her and so we don’t feel for her either.

Wolitzer’s writing style did not appeal to me. I found her voice cold and distant. Perhaps Joan is those things because of what she’s been through, but the author doesn’t allow us to get under her skin. She doesn’t give us a sense that Joan is torn between love and hate; pride and shame; she doesn’t make us feel Joan’s desperation.

Glenn Close, in the film, is successful in bridging that gap between the character and the audience. Her portrayal of Joan allows us to experience (at least to some degree) the conflicting emotions that must engulf the character at every turn. Still, I didn’t feel much more than a fleeting pity for her. Perhaps the problem was ‘resolved’ too conveniently and quickly. Or seemed to be. I suppose Joan is left to live with the truth, and to decide how to deal with it. Perhaps Wolitzer needs to write a sequel!