West North West: Review. Cultures collide in Takuro Nakumara’s beautiful queer/self-discovery film West North West. The film centres on three women; a Japanese same-sex couple Kei and Ai, and a Muslim-Iranian art student Naima. Naima is quiet and unconfident, except when on the phone speaking in Persian.
These conversations are un-subtitled, with the emotion conveying the message. There is a scene early on in the film where Naima is upset on the phone in a cafe, and her emotional conversation angers the Japanese customers. This is where she meets Kei, a bartender who defends Naima’s emotional outburst and the two swiftly become friends.
During this friendship, Kei is having difficulty in sustaining her relationship with Ai, a model who. Ai is jealous and volatile, but passionate. The film follows the three women as they tackle their cultural differences, their roles in society, their sexuality and self worth.
The film peppers in long pauses, where the characters don’t know how to speak to each other. The idea of cultural and social pressures stifling emotional acts is prominent throughout, and highlights the judgements that women still face in society. The muted colour grade throughout heightens the sense of isolation, and also reflects this emotional stifling. The lack of grand shots of the city landscape adds to the intimacy of the film.
The performances are superb, particularly Sahel Rosa as Naima, who’s demure screen presence, and heart-string tugging performance is a pleasure to watch. This film is a thinker, and won’t leave a bruise from an action packed punch.
But, it does leave you questioning your own unconscious bias, and the real difficulties of learning new things and balancing them with engraved routine and tradition.
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