For a film that is set around the death of a father and husband and the funeral that follows it, The Queen of My Dreams is so fresh, and super saturated in colour that its vim, sparkle, and humour cannot help but shine through.
In this first film written and directed by Fawzia Mirza, the conflict between a mother and a daughter is shown, but rather than trudge predictably towards reconciliation the more interesting story of the parallels between their lives is shown.
Azra (Amrit Kaur) is the rebellious daughter brought up in the West, in a relationship with another woman, that she keeps secret from her disapprovingly devout Muslim mother Mariam (Nimra Bucha). However, it turns out Mariam also originally kept parts of her relationship with Azra’s father Hassan (Hamza Haq) secret from her mother. Mariam’s mother wanted her daughter to stay in Pakistan so Mariam and Hassan pretended that they were planning to stay there, until after they were engaged and they revealed they were moving to Canada. Mariam said ‘If you can’t get the ghee out of the jar with your finger straight, you have to bend it’.
In flashbacks, we see that Mariam was herself a rebel once. She used to dance and smoke and wear a bikini in the 1960s before Pakistan became a more conservative Islamic country. However, after her wedding, when Hassan survives his first heart attack, Mariam feels like it is a punishment for deceiving her mother. Mariam makes a pact with god that she will be utterly devout if Hassan lives. Her profession of ‘I submit, I submit, I submit’ is the moment she turns her back on her youth, and her similarities to her daughter.
The film is shot in the most vivid of colours with a vibrant musical score that is pure Bollywood, or in this case maybe more accurately Lollywood. Cheeringly energetic and deeply emotive, the music radiates from the clips of old movies that both Azra and Mariam love, and accompanies the contemporary scenes, giving them bounce and impact.
The performances are charismatic. It takes a little bit of audience attention as Kaur plays both Azra and the younger, flashback version of Mariam whereas Bucha plays Mariam in her later life. However, this adds to the sense of rhyme in their lives and the feeling that they are just inches apart – if they could get over Mariam’s guilty religiosity and unconcealed homophobia.
Queen of My Dreams has an unreal, super vivid hue but the accuracy of its emotional content and its thoughtful but funny capture of the complex nature of expectations, disappointment, guilt, and grief mean that its human insights are entertainingly luminous.
Queerguru Contributing Editor ANDREW HEBDEN is a MEDIA and cultural STUDIES graduate spending his career between London, Beijing, and NYC as an expert in media and social trends. As part of the expanding minimalist FIRE movement, he recently returned to the UK and lives in Soho. He devotes as much time as possible to the movies, theatre, and the gym. His favorite thing is to try something (anything) new every day”
Andrew reviewed this film at BFI London Film Festival