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A second-generation Pakistani-Norwegian has to balance the shared custody of her son with her desire to be an actress and a woman in I Am Yours (Jeg er din), the impressively directed and acted feature debut of Iram Haq.
Ukrainian-Nepalese actress Amrita Acharia (Dothraki handmaiden Irri from Games of Thrones) superbly embodies the protagonist, Mina, a woman who can’t say no to her own desire to be loved — and shouldn’t have to, even if her professional and especially her familial obligations are taking up so much of her time there’s none left to take care of her own needs. Opposite her, Swedish actor Ola Rapace (who had a small role in Skyfall and who’s the ex-husband of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace), plays a Swedish director who’s head-over-heels in love with Mina but who can’t handle the fact she comes with a young son she also needs to take care of.
This pleasingly raw and complex contemporary drama represents Norway in the foreign-language Oscar derby, which should help it get noticed on the festival circuit. Boutique distributors looking for small-scale dramas with a biting emotional honesty should also take note.
As the grown-up daughter from a conservative immigrant family in liberal Norway, Mina (Acharia) will never be able to please her parents, for whom what others in the Pakistani community think of their family is paramount. She alternates living alone with sharing her modest pad with her primary school-going son, Felix (Prince Singh), who goes back and forth between Mom’s place and the new home of his architect Dad (Assad Siddique) and the latter’s new girlfriend (Sara Khorami).
Being a single mother is hard enough but Mina’s also an actress, someone who’s never sure when the next project will line up and where it will take her. Though writer-director Haq, who’s also an actress, reportedly based the protagonist partly on personal experiences, the professional side of Mina’s life gets relatively little attention except for the occasional casting scene. But Mina’s demanding family life, with especially her mother (Rabia Noreen) constantly asking her to try to get back with her ex-husband or at least marry someone else, and the demands of looking after little Felix, make it abundantly and painfully clear that Mina finds it impossible to find time to dedicate to herself.
Things start to look up when she meets Jesper (Rapace), a Swedish film director who’s come to Oslo for a film festival, and the duo are immediately smitten with one another. Haq credibly infuses their first moments together with a giddy infectiousness and some witty dialog, including Jesper’s cute pick-up line: “I won’t try to sell you anything, convert you or make you my second wife.” Like in much of what Jesper’ll say later, there are already shades that suggest what kind of trouble might lie ahead.
But their combustible relationship, in which Mina, at least initially, finds the sexual gratification and human warmth she’s been craving, grows more complex very quickly, as having a relationship with someone in Stockholm is nearly impossible for someone who also needs to take care of her son in Oslo. To make matters worse, Jesper clearly loves Mina but finds that in Felix he perhaps got more than he bargained for; he loves the kid but he doesn’t seem ready to commit to a life that suddenly includes not one but two new people.
Beautifully modulated over a taut 90-odd minutes, editors Anne Osterud and Janus Billeskov Jensen help Haq etch in the details of Mina’s stifling emotional life with each subsequent scene, as one frustration leads to another and the space in which Mina can freely move seems to slowly grow smaller and then practically disappears. It’s Acharia’s multifaceted yet psychologically easily readable performance that’s the film’s true secret weapon, however, and if audiences remain glued to the screen it is because she’s such a captivating and complex presence, which expertly bounces of Rapace’s equally sexy energy and troubled undertow.
The film’s handheld cinematography heightens the sense of propinquity to and between the characters and Even Vaa’s atmospheric score ably supports the proceedings without falling in the trap of always dictating what the characters are feeling exactly, allowing the actors, intelligent screenplay and sharp direction to take center stage.
Production company: Mer Film
Cast: Amrita Acharia, Ola Rapace, Prince Singh, Rabia Abid, Trond Fausa, Jesper Malm, Assad Siddique, Sara Khorami
Writer-director: Iram Haq
Producer: Maria Ekerhovd
Directors of photography: Marek Wieser, Cecilie Semec
Production designer: Ann Kristin Talleraas
Music: Even Vaa
Costume designer: Ida Toft
Editors: Anne Osterud, Janus Billeskov Jensen
No rating, 95 minutes.
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