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Film Review: ‘I Am Yours’

A woman caught between cultures struggles to find love and acceptance in Iram Haq's assured but not always likable debut.

With:

Amrita Acharia, Ola Rapace, Prince Singh, Rabia Noreen, Trond Fausa Aurvaag, Tobias Santelmann, Assad Siddique.  (Norwegian, Swedish, Urdu dialogue)

Assured but not always likable, “I Am Yours” centers on a young woman who refuses the traditional roles of obedient daughter and good mother as she struggles to find love and acceptance. Debuting Norwegian helmer-writer Iram Haq draws on her experience as the child of Pakistani immigrants to probe the problems of a woman caught between cultures, her dysfunctional upbringing having left her with no knowledge of what real love is. Boasting an irresponsible yet sympathetic protagonist, the pic marked a brave choice as Norway’s foreign-language Oscar submission and signals Haq as a talent to watch. International fest play is ongoing.

Petite, shapely, struggling actress Mina (Amrita Acharia, “Game of Thrones”) is a 27-year-old divorcee who shares custody of her 6-year-old son, Felix (Prince Singh), with her now remarried ex (Assad Siddique), a successful architect. Mina’s traditional, hypercritical mother (Rabia Noreen) constantly worries about the gossip from local Norwegian-Pakistani community, and throws the divorce in her daughter’s face every time they get together. “What a fine man,” she sighs. “Imagine if he were still a member of this family.” From Mina’s sour look, it’s clear that she’s heard this line before.

Lonely and craving love, Mina is ruled by her id. She has relied on her sexual allure for so long that she seems unable to stop using it as a tool to affirm her worth and attractiveness. Unfortunately, the type of men she attracts quickly zero in on her neediness and see that they can abuse and manipulate her. When Mina meets self-centered Swedish director Jesper (Ola Rapace, harrowingly perfect as a passive-aggressive boyfriend from hell), she goes to great lengths to make the relationship work, jeopardizing Felix’s well-being in the process. Sadly, her son’s love fails to satisfy her needs because, like a child herself, she is desperate for someone to take care of her. When her desire takes the upper hand, she starts to feel that the boy is an obstacle to her own chances of being loved.

Haq, who made a name for herself as an actress and singer as well as a writer-director of short films, makes no secret that her screenplay is based on her own life. (She, however, separated from her family at the age of 14, after they kidnapped her and brought her to Pakistan against her will — an experience she also gives to Mina, and one which will form the basis of her next film.) Her writing is unflinching in its honesty, depicting a sometimes off-putting protagonist whose loneliness and craving for love is so overpowering that she winds up making bad decisions.

That the film succeeds so well is due in no small part to its naturally warm lead thesp, Acharia, who gives a literally and figuratively naked performance. The supporting cast, too, is aces, particularly young Singh as the confused, unhappy Felix. A smart craft package fully supports the pic’s tone and emotions, with edgy, intimate camerawork mirroring Mina’s restlessness. Spot-on production design and costumes communicate reams of character information.

Film Review: 'I Am Yours'

Reviewed at Gothenburg Film Festival (competing), Feb. 2, 2014. (Also in Palm Springs Film Festival — Awards Buzz; 2013 Toronto Film Festival — Discovery.) Running time: 96 MIN. Original title: “Jeg er din”

Production:

(Norway) An SF Norge release of a Mer Film production with the support of the Norwegian Film Institute, NRK, Dagslys, (International sales: Premium Films, Paris.) Produced by Maria Ekerhovd. Executive producer, Axel Helgeland.

Crew:

Directed, written by Iram Haq. Camera (color, HD), Marek Septimus Wieser, Cecilie Semec; editors, Anne Osterud, James Billeskov Jansen; music, Even Vaa; production designer, Ann Kristin Talleraas; costume designers, Ida Toft, Lotte Shepard, Ann Kristin Dahle; sound, Tormod Ringnes, Fanny Wadman, Tor Havard Strand. 

With:

Amrita Acharia, Ola Rapace, Prince Singh, Rabia Noreen, Trond Fausa Aurvaag, Tobias Santelmann, Assad Siddique.  (Norwegian, Swedish, Urdu dialogue)

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