Film - Theatre - Music/Dance - Books - TV - Gallery - Art - Fashion/Lifestyle - Video

Cannes 2024 – ‘Sister Midnight’ – Radhika Apta’s brilliance, new British writer-director Karan Kandhari comic absurd tour de force…

Cannes 2024 – ‘Sister Midnight’ – Radhika Apta’s brilliance, new British writer-director Karan Kandhari comic absurd tour de force…

Review of film that had its world premiere in Cannes and was quite unlike anything else we saw there…

QUIRKY, original and darkly funny, ‘Sister Midnight’ is a great ride for anyone who likes absurd comedy drama – and we use ‘absurd’ in a totally positive and complimentary context.

Its music score too is mind-blowing, eschewing common Indian rhythms and instruments mostly for Americana rock, pop, country and folk – if you don’t love those scenes – this film isn’t for you and move on please.

Writer-director Karan Kandhari proves his worth as this film, supported by Film4 in the UK, had its world premiere in the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival (May 14-25 2024).

One wonders if it hadn’t been Indian indie star Radhika Apte (pictured above) holding it all together as Uma, whether the film would have been quite so enthralling.

We first meet Uma on a train after her wedding and travelling back to her new husband’s (Ashok Pathak) shack.

They live in the outskirts of Mumbai and in a suburb (not sure whether it is named) and Uma’s husband is employed in what looks like a printing press but it isn’t explicit or particularly important – what is, is that their circumstances are modest – but by no means – and all relatively speaking, terrible – they do have disposable cash for sundries, beyond the necessities of life.

In some ways, Kandhari sets about deconstructing the traditional arranged Indian marriage – the two people do not really know each other – perhaps they don’t even much like each other, but now they are married, they need to get on with it and do the needful, as some Indians would say.

Uma, perhaps again in a traditional and (confusing) trope – blows both hot and cold – her husband seems only slightly interested in her as a sexual being and initially, is reluctant to engage.

Nothing much really happens (emotionally) and it is clear that Uma’s mental health is tottering – she starts seeing and hearing things – this is when the fun really starts.

A kindly neighbour takes pity and teaches her a few things – like cooking – Uma is a rebel at heart and clearly has been busy doing other things in her previous existence.

None of this is particularly well sketched out – and again it isn’t a criticism, simply an observation and for the type of film it is, doesn’t matter, essentially.

Increasingly, Uma seems alienated and lost and starts to find salvation in animals and creatures.

They become her companions and guardians (?) – the use of stock animation – becomes a feature, about a quarter of a way into the film – it’s all quite funny and adds to the idiosyncratic world that Kandhari has created.

It is macabre and not very pleasant in places, but this really depends on your disposition and so long as you are prepared (and we were not), it is fine and works – at least personally because we quite enjoy these absurd turns, done with panache and daring…

Kandhari shows great elan and flair blending the music to the scenes – and one wonders if he is letting it all out in his first full length feature – he has made shorts and music videos before and clearly has a great eye and flair as a director, but the subject matter is grisly and uncomfortable (in a few scenes) – and while that may be his intention, it isn’t going to carry everyone.

But there’s no need really – films are indeed subjective enterprises and a director must stay true to her or his vision and carry others with them. The tone is a little inconsistent and messy here and its lasts quarter is a little meandering – but overall, this is a film that you should entertain and tickle you if you like this genre.

London-based Kandhari certainly did keep us mostly invested – but one wonders if his next project is going to be something wildly different – not set in India and not directly about the inherited culture from which he has emerged so much…

It is our hope that more Indian directors and writers will see the possibilities writ large in this film and respond… and there’s no reason why we can’t have more (absurd or dark) comedies from India…

As they say, watch this space, we hope this is the start of something…and Kandhari is at the forefront and definitely one to watch…
Acv rating **** (out of five)

‘Sister Midnight’ screened at the Directors Fortnight Section at the Cannes Film Festival and it had its world premiere screening on Sunday, May 19 at Theatre Croisette, JW Marriott, Cannes.

Share Button
Written by Asian Culture Vulture