I Can't Think Straight

I Can't Think Straight


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

While the lesbian community is no doubt under-served when it comes to films, that's no excuse for sub-standard, hokey filmmaking to get the green light - frankly, thinking straight is the very least of this film's problems.

If the plot is cheese, it never rises above the level of a Dairylea triangle, as upper-class Jordanian Tala - currently inching towards her fourth attempt at getting wed, after calling off three previous engagements - falls for her best mate Ali's girlfriend Leyla, who comes from a middle-class Indian clan. Not content with examining the rigours of coming out to your parents if you are from a strongly religious family - which might have made quite an interesting film had it been handled with a lot less cliche and a lot more finesse - writer/director Shamim Sarif also makes a clumsy attempt to address everything from cross-cultural Muslim/Christian romance to the state of Palestine/Israel relations in the Middle East.

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The tone never settles. Part of the time we are plunged into what feels like a cut-price (and deeply unfunny) episode of Meet The Kumars - with 'comedic' howlers including Leyla's mum despairing about her younger daughter Yasmin's desire to cook non-Indian food and her dad constantly urging her to learn to sell life insurance ("it sells itself," he reiterates, as though repeating it might somehow make it more funny - it doesn't). Meanwhile, Yasmin suspects there is more to Leyla’s failure with men than meets the eye – what other explanation can there be for her penchant for listening to kd lang and reading The Fingersmith..?

This is intercut with scenes involving Tala and her parents, which could for all the world have been snipped out of a very bad soap opera. Her mother's maid continually spits in her mistress's tea which - oh, the hilarity! - she never actually gets round to drinking, while her sister schemes in a way that really should require her to mutter the words "Mwu-ha-ha-ha-ha" into a cape every five minutes. And, despite the melodramatics, there is still time to crowbar in some politics.

Then there is the romance itself, which has all the subtlety of a Wile E Coyote rock to the head. After "an amazing" game of tennis (by this time, the only "amazing" thing on display is the fortitude of those still awake in the cinema) romance is in the air. One minute Tala is all over Leyla like a rash, coming on stronger than a rugby player's jockstrap, the next, she can't cope with the idea of coming out, while Leyla, it seems, just can't wait to get her new-found feelings out in the open.

As for the 'sex scenes', they, like much of the rest of the film, suffer from dreadful direction and editing. Less steamy than a bowl of cold cabbage, they are a dreadful mishmash of intercut body close-ups - a chaste shoulder here, a stroked arm there - ridiculously prudish considering that this is presumably aimed at an adult audience, with even basic continuity seeming beyond the reach of Sarif.

Elsewhere the direction is woefully static and any emotion that might be worked up by the two leads - Lisa Ray as Tala and Sheetal Sheth as Leyla - is killed at the point of delivery by a score which is an unappealing and inappropriate muddle of Western pop and sub-Bollywood. The leads (seen being equally lovey-dovey in Sarif’s second film The World Unseen) at least attempt to rise above the material, but most of the rest of the cast deliver their lines so poorly you begin to wonder if the whole lot hasn't been badly dubbed from another language.

Laughable for all the wrong reasons and as romantic as hives. I can't stop thinking it should have gone straight to the bargain bucket.

Reviewed on: 07 Apr 2009
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I Can't Think Straight packshot
Lesbian love blossoms across the cultural divide.
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Director: Shamim Sarif

Writer: Shamim Sarif, Kelly Moss

Starring: Lisa Ray, Sheetal Sheth, Antonia Frering, Dalip Tahil, Nina Wadia, Ernest Ignatius, Siddiqua Akhtar, Amber Rose Revah, Anya Lahiri, Kimberly Jaraj

Year: 2007

Runtime: 80 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK


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