I Am Nasrine is a great rendition of a common theme
I have mixed feelings writing this review. There is no question that ‘I Am Nasrine’, by writer-director Tina Gharavi, is a well-done, complex and emotional movie. The thing is, its been done before. I can think of countless movies of a Muslim leaving her home country (Iran in this case) for a better life somewhere else (UK, as is relatively common); although she does it at the urging of her father. Nasrine (Mischa Sadeghi) is joined by older brother Ali (Shiraz Haq) as they adapt to a new language, culture, environment, and discovering their sexuality. Like I said, in this regards, the premise is nothing new.
What makes ‘I am Nasrine’ unique in many respects, is the fact the bulk of it wasn’t scripted. Gharavi, who has a documentary background, compiled stories of immigrants she knew as the basis for this film, but, as Haq explained, she let the actors develop many of their own scenes. Improv is common in many films, but it is usually reserved for comedy; it is rarely seen in such a dramatic setting. As someone who has an improv background and training, I found it quite a fascinating route to choose and thought it was very well executed.
While this film probably won't get seen by the masses (the best films never are), in an effort to get the twilight generation to see it, I would like to point out to Harry Potter fans, that the actor who played Tom Marvolo Riddle in “Hary Potter: The Chamber of Secrets” – Christian Coulson – has a supporting role. But because of Gharavi’s aforementioned documentary background, she also cast non-actors – such as Nicole Halls and her family – a real-life family of travellers – as a family of travellers who befriend Nasrine. (It was also Sadeghi’s film debut as an actress)
At times the film has remarkable subtlety, and at others, it is in-your-face emotional. Both Sadeghi and Haq are brilliant at portraying the brother-sister relationship and all its complexities. Haq even does well with Farsi (which he didn’t know how to speak before the film – he is a Londoner of Pakistani heritage), and convincingly shows Ali struggling with English.
The film does not attempt to be political, or take sides necessarily, although given the subject matter, it is not difficult for the audience to make a choice and have empathy for Nasrine & Ali. (Indeed, at the screening I attended, there were many immigrants in the audience, including Iranis). Rather, it merely attempts to show how different life is in England and Iran and tries to foster a greater understanding between Western and Middle Eastern culture. There could not be a much more relevant topic today.
I am Nasrine stars Mischa Sadeghi, Shiraz Haq, Nicole Halls, Christian Coulson and Steven Hooper.