Margarita, with a Straw
Friday 17th October, 6pm – Vue West End, Screen 5
Saturday 18th October, 1pm – Vue Islington
There’s a bold picture playing at the London Film Festival this weekend. It’s called Margarita, with a Straw, fresh out of India and directed by Shonali Bose. A story of love, struggle, and escapism, Bose’s feature is not a subtle film, but it’s certainly a heartfelt one. And, most importantly, it’s effective.
Kalki Koechlin stars as Laila – a hormonal, argumentative, yet curiously confident 19-year-old Delhi student suffering from cerebral palsy. An enormously admirable character, Laila displays a courageousness in having to deal with her disability, while also suffering the typical teenage self-consciousness that plagues even the healthiest adolescents. Her natural intelligence earns her an offer to attend a school in New York, and Laila – never one to let her condition get the better of her – heads west to embark on an adventure of social, cultural and sexual liberation.
Koechlin is spectacular in the lead role, but not just in her commitment to accurately displaying behavioural traits of a serious disability. True, she convincingly portrays the garbled speech and rigid movements exhibited by many sufferers of cerebral palsy, but it is her demonstration of emotional range within the framework of this challenging role that is so impressive. In one scene, she is left humiliated after a rock concert, and her reaction is so realistic it is utterly heartbreaking.
One of the film’s finest moments comes during a typical morning ritual, where Laila’s mother is helping her wash. The two tease one another in a typical mother/daughter way, before Laila confesses to her mother that there’s a boy in her college that she likes. He’s nice, he’s handsome, and he’s a singer in a band. Her mother’s face turns to stone. There’s fright in her eyes, terrified at the prospect of her daughter having her heart broken. It’s a scene that feels so authentic, expertly capturing the complexity of Laila’s attempt to be an ordinary adolescent. Revathy (as the mother) is wonderful in this short sequence.
Laila visibly grows along with the movie, making exotic discoveries that are both new and exciting, but threaten to drive a wedge between her and her family back home in Delhi. Bose juggles the delicate topics of bisexuality and disability with care, courage and conviction. Margarita, with a Straw is a strong piece of work that bridges western and Indian cinema with largely laudable success.
Margarita, with a Straw release date is yet to be announced.
For further information about the BFI London Film Festival visit here.
Read more reviews from the festival here.
Watch the trailer for Margarita, with a Straw here: