In this inspirational love story, a Delhi university student and aspiring writer afflicted with cerebral palsy (Kalki Koechlin, Dev.D, That Girl in Yellow Boots) leaves India for New York University, where she falls for a fiery young activist.

Contemporary World Cinema

Margarita, with a Straw

Shonali Bose

Unusual only because it's so rarely seen on screen, Margarita, with a Straw is an exceptional portrait of a woman discovering what she wants, and how to get it.

Laila (Kalki Koechlin) is a student and aspiring writer, crafting lyrics and electronic sounds for an indie band at her Delhi university. Her cerebral palsy doesn't much get in the way of her life, although it sometimes does for others. When Laila's band wins a local contest, the condescending host says to her, "It must have been so hard for you. Can you share something with us?" Laila shares her middle finger.

Always seeking more freedom and new experience, Laila wins a place at New York University and leaves India with her mother (Revathy) for Manhattan. There she meets a fiery activist, Khanum (Sayani Gupta), who challenges her beliefs, sparks her creativity, and, eventually, takes her to bed. For these two women, it's the beginning of a remarkable love story.

Shonali Bose's Amu, which played the Festival in 2005, took on the wrenching communal conflict of India's recent past. In her new film she pursues a more intimate landscape, drawing on the experience of her own sister to illuminate the amazing Laila. Koechlin — known for her edgy work in films by Anurag Kashyap — here gives a performance full of both precision and heart. And cinematographer Anne Misawa (Treeless Mountain) uses creamy shallow focus and an elegant colour palette to situate Laila in a world alive with palpable beauty.

Avoiding the pitfalls of cheap sentiment on the one side and moral instruction on the other, Margarita, with a Straw is a consistently rewarding portrait of a young woman coming of age, making mistakes, and finding the unpredictable path of her own desire.

CAMERON BAILEY

Screenings

Sun Sep 07

Scotiabank 13

Industry
11:15am
Mon Sep 08

TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Regular
6:00pm
Wed Sep 10

The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Regular
5:00pm
Wed Sep 10

Scotiabank 11

Industry
9:30pm
Fri Sep 12

Scotiabank 2

Regular
8:45pm