(Written by Allison Brown)
Amrit Kaur, known for playing the witty Bela Malhotra in The Sex Lives of College Girls, instantly drew me to The Queen of My Dreams. The film is noticeably a very personal story, as Director Fawzia Mirza is both queer and Muslim just like her lead, Azra (Amrit Kaur, Ayana Manji). While once close, each mother-daughter pair has a defining moment in their upbringing where all goes downhill, causing their relationship to crumble. A linear connection of womanhood spanning three generations is at the core of this moving and relatable dramedy.
When Azra’s mother, Mariam (Nimra Buch, Polite Society), discovers Azra about to lock lips with a female friend on her twelfth birthday, she slowly cuts her out of bonding activities. Mariam’s mother, Amira (Gul-e-Rana), gives up on her when she realizes she was manipulated into endorsing her daughter’s chosen love interest as an “arranged” marriage. Both experiences give credence to an outdated cultural perception of ethics that advances over time. Azra’s father, Hassan (Hamza Haq), suddenly passes away, and she is drawn to Pakistan where not much has changed since her mother’s time there.
Mirza’s choice to have Kaur play both Azra and Mariam is a smart tactic, both highlighting a passion for the absurdity of Bollywood casting, and showing the two women are not so different. Amrit is a ray of light, and plays each role with needed nuance. Repetition is a bit overused, but oftentimes effective. Mother and daughter in various stages of life fantasize falling in love in the same iconic movie scene, and arranged marriage meetings are prefaced with an identical flashy preparation of delectable food to show the indistinguishable and lackluster nature of the interactions.
Phases spent in both the 60s and 90s are a precise time capsule; the wardrobe team deserves accolades. In the 90s, the characters wear butterfly clips, overalls, and chokers, while sifting through an overabundant Beanie Baby collection. There are basement parties, just like I had growing up! Stunning hair and makeup instantly define the 60s. Cinematography is swift and colorful, with visuals panning as if swiped on a phone, keeping what could have been a slow story lively and active. Scenes in Pakistan are nearly unchanged through the decades, depicting how antiquated and outdated life is for those who chose to stay behind. The Queen of My Dreams tells a familiar narrative through a uniquely Pakistani lens with fantastic acting and singularly creative filmmaking. Anticipate making much-needed family calls to mom after spending some time with Azra and Mariam.
Grab those you love and hold them tight after the film screens at Toronto International Film Festival on Friday, September 8th.