Directed by Deepa Mehta.
Written by Deepa Mehta.
Starring Sarala, Lisa Ray, Seema Biswas and John Abraham.
Release Year: 2005
Review Date: 7/6/06
Let me make sure I get this straight--as
recently as the late 1930s in India, women that were engaged or
married to men that passed on into the afterlife were typically sent
to homes not unlike whorehouses to live out their lives with other
widows, based on societal rules written 2,000 years earlier?
If I'm to believe the new movie
"Water"--and, based on everything I've read and heard about this
film, I don't see any reason not to--being an Indian widow just fell
below Toll Booth Operator as the worst thing to be employed as
anywhere in the world. No joke, you end up shaking your head a
LOT during this film, which follows an 8-year-old girl named Chuyia
(Sarala, young for a one-namer, eh?); when we meet her, her new
husband is being shipped off to the grave and Dad is telling Chuyia
the bad news: yep, that was your husband; nope, we didn't tell you
you were married until right now; nope, after tomorrow morning,
we're never going to see you again. Chuyia is dropped at a
local widow's home, run by an evil fat bitter widow named Madhumati
(Manorma), and for all intents & purposes, Chuyia will live out her
life in this existence, scorned by all of the locals--as if it is
her fault her freakin' husband passed away!--and judged by law to never
be able to marry again. The little girl is befriended by a
middle-aged woman named Shakuntala (Seema Biswas) and gets tight
with a beautiful, reserved woman named Kalyani (Lisa Ray), who
eventually meets and falls for a Gandhi follower named Narayan (John
Abraham). Throughout all of this, though, is the main theme
that widowhood as an oppressed state is a shocking contrast to how
most people imagine teenage women could live out their days.
I'll admit, subtitles and some slow parts
bring this down a bit for me, but overall, "Water" is a great movie
because it's a strange-but-true retelling of how many women--then
and apparently, even now--that lose their arranged spouses have to
go on living. And, apparently, some of those women are content
to actually whoring themselves out as a way to make a living because
society already looks down upon them as a social caste. A
couple of sequences, featuring the widow home's pimp (Raghuvir Yadav,
dressed like an Indian dandy with a few other tricks up his sleeve),
are fairly harrowing, including one featuring the little girl and a
guy smoking a cigarette that made everyone in my theater do the
"uncomfortable shifting in seat" move as it was going on.
Mehta keeps the material adult-accessible without making it dirty;
she also gets a great performance out of Sarala, who simply does not
suck as the little girl thrust into an all-new world against her
will. I have not seen the other two films in what is
apparently an elemental trilogy ("Fire" and "Earth" came out in the
late 90s), but I do know that Mehta's other work has been very
well-received here in the US, rare for a director who comes from a
country whose work typically falls into "Bollywood" territory.
The film has a number of quiet, beautiful
moments; the scenery is plain, but its tranquility allows you to
relax right alongside the characters in each scene. Our
eventual meeting with Gandhi didn't come off right for me, but the
ending is still solid thanks to the emotions of the moment for our
protagonist. Overall, good stuff. This one has been out
for a while, so if you don't hurry, add it to the Queue (the Netflix
Queue, that is).
Rating: $9.50 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard