I Can’t Think Straight Review: Boundaries Are There To Be Broken
Upon watching I Can’t Think Straight and being party to a discussion with the film’s acclaimed director Shamim Sarif, I am reminded of an urban myth I once heard.
A young boy was being prosecuted for a petty crime, and as the judge was sentencing him, the boy could not help but giggle from nerves. The judge misconstrued his laughter as cheek, and increased his sentence.
It’s stories like this one that confirm the human predisposition to laugh at situations that might otherwise cause us pain. In a very personal tale of self-discovery that looks at two women’s attempts to find love and overcome family prejudice, Shamim Sarif takes a humourous look at an otherwise touchy subject: homosexuality. Tala is about to get married for the fourth time, until she meets Layla, a feisty girl who she just can’t stop thinking about.
Being a privileged Westerner it is easy for me to moan about the continuing prevalence of sexism in society. I balk at the fact that women get paid 17% less than men, yet I am free to choose a boyfriend (or girlfriend), whereas central character Tala almost marries a drug addict because he “came from a very respectable family”.
For many Middle Eastern women, men and marriage become a bind: a straight jacket from which they cannot escape as they hang like a reluctant Houdini, gasping and floundering before being submerged in an uncertain, unfulfilling, unwanted future. It was interesting to note the diverse parallels between the marriage trap and Layla and Tala’s feeling of suffocation in their own skin, and the difficulties that are bound up with admitting gay feelings to oneself, and to one’s parents.
In Layla’s coming out scene, her mother is afflicted with the dismissive “it’s just a phase” mentality. “Who did this to you?” she says, automatically comparing Layla’s sexuality to an affliction or disease rather than a personal preference.
Admitting her homosexuality is hard enough for Layla, but for Tala, her heritage makes it all the more difficult. She says, “This is no way to live, it’s not easy, it’s not acceptable” but to truly be with Layla Tala must confront her fears, and free herself from the confines of a loveless marriage.
For all its “controversy”, the love scenes in I Can’t Think Straight are fairly tame, especially for fans of our top ten. However, in terms of Middle Eastern and Bollywood cinema, these scenes are incredibly graphic and to some, shocking. I personally thought the love scenes were handled with a tenderness that emphasised that the couple’s desires go beyond the base and physical. With pornography saturated with girl-on-girl action, it was refreshing to look at a couple who appeared truly in love.
A great independent, contemporary Brit flick, that almost didn’t make it to our scenes. Thankfully, Shamim Sarif like her protagonist, is a fighter and an inspiration to both homo and hetero women everywhere.
And if you like that, you’ll LOVE our Top Ten Lesbian Movie Kisses, which may even have a little smooch from this here movie amongst its countdown. And for a more in-depth, revealing and stimulating view into the issues surrounding the movie and the effect they had on its production, make sure to check out our exclusive interview with the film’s director, Shamim Sharif.