Rating: **(2 stars)
This is a very decorous genteel proper love story with black folks pretending not to be black. The focus here is on appearing mainstream by turning the proceedings ‘colour blind’. This is a recent phenomenon in American cinema whereby the characters’ cultural/racial specificity is not mentioned at all. Quite a departure from the great black sagas in the past like The Colour Purple and Seven Years A Slave.
Not that The Photograph is anywhere near being great cinema. It’s nerverwrackingly decorous with the well-dressed characters talking in clipped tones, listening to nostalgia music from custom-made vinyl record players while sipping the best champagne that dollars can buy. I never got around to believing that Issa Rae (no relation to our own Lisa Ray) was falling in love with Lakeith Stanfield. They resemble a pair of models doing a cologne ad.
The family around the couple is so clichéd in their attitude it felt like the narration was actually mocking them. But no. Lakeith’s gruff but softhearted Bade Bhaiya and the doting Bhabhi(straight out of Sooraj Barjatya ) are for real. So in a sequence straight out of Hum Saath Saath Hai, Michael brings Mae home to his brother’s family. The kids rush to ‘Aunty’ and tell her about Michael’s previous girlfriend who used to visit them.
This is as weak an excuse for a rift between the couple as I’ve ever seen. May has her own mother issues which we get to see in flashbacks which are as vivid as the view of the ground from the spinning wheel.
The film’s biggest crime is not pretentiousness. It is dullness. From Mae and Michael’s first meeting I couldn’t care less whether they were mutually attracted , because as a viewer I wasn’t attracted to them as a couple nor did I feel the impact of any of the subsequent ups and downs that their relationship went through.
The Photograph is almost as inert and immovable as its 2018 namesake directed by Ritesh Batra where Nawazuddin and Sanya Malhotra were so culturally disparate as to seem like the most unlikely pair on the planet. Here the lead pair is on the same side, and yet posing like tourists on love island . This is the love story for the selfie generation. Hollow posturing.
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