One of the simplest pleasures in life has to be, after a hard days work, collapsing into an armchair (or bean bag in my case) with a bottle of red wine and happening across a late night film on telly. More often than not these films appear on Channel 4, as was the case last night. I was actually hoping that the cricket highlights might be on, but instead there was an English film called Yasmin. And throughout the film I couldn’t help but be bemused that I hadn’t heard of it before, it wasn’t heralded as award-winning and, with the intensely relevant subject matter, it simply appeared somewhat modestly and covertly in the TV listings.
Focusing on a young Muslim woman in a small town in the north of England living in an arranged marriage, attempting to enjoy a westernised lifestyle with her workmates while keeping her disillusioned brother away from the reaches of extremists… it could well have been heavy-handed, preachy, overtly political, but it was refreshingly subtle. Not that it was without it’s problems. Her immediate alienation from her workmates after 9/11 (a central turning point in the film and, it’s fair to say, in the race relations of modern Britain) and overt bullying, didn’t quite ring true to me. I lived in Sheffield at the time in multi-cultural areas, and never felt or witnessed such overt changes. But what do I know.
It was moving and educational – perhaps all of the best films are – but a depressing watch. At turns I felt anger at the British police, government, tolerance of racism, and also at the Muslim community depicted. Blame isn’t really laid at anyone’s door, rather everyone’s and no ones. When her brother leaves to fight in Afghanistan, it made me feel intensely angry – not at him but at the situation that brought it about. His actions, as they were portrayed, were entirely understandable. The elderly father’s devastation at his son’s leaving, and his inability to understand the new world around him, brought me close to tears. But most of my wine had mysteriously gone at this point. And as the credits rolled a chirpy presenter came on and told me it was time for Big Brother. Oh boy, I thought, back to reality.