Sadia Saeed (director)
28 June 2019 (released)
30 June 2019
If I wrote a review with lots of ellipses...attempting to pass on the effect of…hesitation and thought…it would pad-out the article…and be trying for me and the reader.
So I’m not but that is the main problem with Arifa, an otherwise interesting and heartfelt look at a young British-Pakistani woman finding her way through crap boyfriends, social ignorance and her own internal demons.
Arifa (Shermin Hassan) is a young woman who’s in a boring office job, aspiring to be a writer. The job is a means to an end as her family mother Farida (Taru Devani) and sister Amina (Nimisha Odedra) are estranged for their husband/father Hameed (Jeff Mirza) after some financial deals didn’t go they way should.
Hameen returns but there’s catch: he hasn’t got any money, is dealing in smuggled tobacco and looking for a loan. This raises the hackles of Arifa telling her mother to stand up to him once and for all. Arifa is also dealing with the breakup with her boyfriend Michael (Rez Kempton), and man hopelessly self-absorbed.
Having a quiet time to herself in a cafe writing Arifa is chatted up by Riccardo (Luca Pusceddu) a man who claims to be an Italian online gamer. Ric is one step up from the pub philosopher from the rubbish that comes out of his mouth. These people do however sometimes possess some charm, so Arifa is partially taken in by him though she has questions that need answers.
At the same time, as we see at the start of film when she breaks up with Michael, Arifa has her own mental health issues. She tries to deal with these via her counsellor Shabana (Shazia Mirza) and aerobics classes. Neither of which appear to be doing much good and just pile on the problems.
Ostensibly this is a character study of a young woman who is unsure of her life at the moment and where she is going. Family life is conflicted once her father returns and her personal life is, while not a mess, frustrating, having to deal with idiots, ignorance and downright prejudice.
This plays out through a number of long conversations between the characters that struggle to hold interest mainly because of the pacing. There are sometimes quite long pauses (almost interludes) that disrupt rather than serve those scenes and frustrate. Saying that when Arifa loses it in the aerobics class she really does, and writer/director Sadia Saeed does inject some sly black humour in the dialogues.
The cast are good with Hassan in particular digging into her character. It’s also a beautifully shot film with careful sound design particularly when Arifa is in Brighton and wandering around her isolation all to palpable.