Brick Lane: Open Thread

I watched Brick Lane last night. Full disclosure: I haven’t read the book. I wanted to, I swear. Just never got around to it.

Image via Sony Classics.

Image via Sony Classics.

So I can’t offer book-versus-movie criticism, which doesn’t seem like such a big deal considering that everyone always says that “the book is better,” anyway. But I really enjoyed the movie.

This was the first film I’ve seen in awhile where the movie was solely about one woman, told solely from her viewpoint, and focused solely on her life. She told us about her childhood, we saw her neighborhood from her eyes. No one else told us her story: we knew what she knew, we saw what she saw. So often, women’s stories are told as adjacent to men’s, or by men, or by other women. But in this movie, we found out about Nazneen’s sister’s life when she did. We found out about her husband’s career and financial decisions when she did.

Because the story was focused on her, the viewer was able to see a fully-formed character. We saw her prayers, we saw her affair, we saw her trips to the market, we saw her run after her daughter: she wasn’t just a Muslim or just a Bangladeshi or just a housewife. Representations of Muslim women are often so flat that in movies, they only get to be one of these things. But Nazneen’s character was real, like women are: we saw her thought processes, her mistakes, her feelings, and her interactions.

Here’s the trailer:

YouTube Preview Image

So, readers, what did you think? This is an open thread for your thoughts on the book, the movie, or both.

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  • cycads


    You’ve got around watching the film!

    What I loved about the film was also what you’ve just said – the portrayal of female complexity and flaws. The film, and perhaps the book as well (haven’t read it myself) focuses so much on the home, where she is confined to, because pretty much everything happens there. The home then becomes sweatily and asphyxiatingly claustrophobic and I think, “How can anyone live like that for years? They can go mad”. This could have led to her affair which is understandable. I’m not saying that that is acceptable either but under such circumstances, y’know..

    Another thing I liked was the not-so-fairytale ending which had elements of forgiveness and compromise that I thought was so touching and refreshing. Not many films and novels do that.

  • Faithconfusion

    I absolutely adored this film. I loved the music, the actors were perfect in each role, and the story was something of dreams. And I also like the way the ending was not as a fairy tale. It was more real. The Best -i want to watch it again now!!

  • saliha

    I enjoyed the book quite a bit, as I remember, it’s been a while. The actress is beautiful and certainly looks older than the young man she’s having an affair with, but I don’t think she looks old enough to play the roll and that bothers me.

  • Rchoudh

    I read the book a couple of years ago and like the film it told the story from Nazneen’s point of view. While I found the book enjoyable overall I was confused at certain points and I’m wondering if the movie delved into these matters more precisely? Like why did Nazneen’s mother kill herself? How do she and her lover wind up having the affair (in the book it just seemed as though they just started it suddenly with no hint of its buildup prior)? And does the end mean that she and her husband have separated? If you or anyone knows the answers to these questions I’d be happy to hear it.

  • idyllicmollusk

    I saw this at a film fest somewhere, and was quite impressed, for all the reasons mentioned in the post. The film gives us a POV rarely if ever rendered for public consumption: the life of an immigrant housewife in the West. The “immigrant wife” figure is usually kept in the background: she is a supporting figure whose existence revolves around someone else’s life: a husband, a white neighbor, her children, her religion.

    To answer post #4:

    My answers to your questions (my interpretations, obviously):

    Nazneen’s mother killed herself because of the extreme poverty she was raising children in, and the dark prospects for their future.

    The affair takes off because Nazneen is bored and has a bunch of free time alone at home, and she makes the delivery guy nostalgic.

    She and her husband separate amicably because she has learned to establish her own individual identity and realizes her reasons for wanting to return to Bangladesh were based on a fiction.

  • Rchoudh


    Ok thanks for answering! I had a feeling those were the answers but since the book was vague about them I wasn’t sure.

  • rawi

    I haven’t read the book either, though I’d still like to, at some point. As for the film, I found it surprisingly good, perhaps because I had low (or no) expectations. I agree with Fatemeh’s characterization re. the story’s very realistic focalisation on Nazneen. I would guess that’s how Monica Ali portrayed it, but credits certainly due also to the director.