Sunday, November 25, 2018

Two Movies Where Women Face Contempt From Their Families

Title: English Vinglish (2012)
Director: Gauri Shinde
Language: English and Hindi, with some French too
Rating: Not rated

Shashi (Sridevi) is a quiet, unassuming married woman who runs a small business from her home selling laddoo, an Indian sweet treat often served on special occasions. Because she doesn't speak English or show much worldly sophistication, she's regularly treated with dismissiveness and contempt by her husband, Satish (Adil Hussain), and daughter, Sapna (Navika Kotia). A shift in her life comes when she flies to New York to help with a family wedding. Secretly, she enrolls in a crash course in English, attended by people from around the world, including Laurent (Mehdi Nebbou), a Frenchman who falls in love with her.


The movie is bright and polished. Much of its depth of emotion comes from Sridevi's performance. Her acting really carries the film and makes even the clich├ęs entertaining. The most moving scene is highlighted in the screen capture above: at the family wedding, Shashi stands and delivers a speech. During one part, she describes the beauty of a family – how a family isn't judgmental and will never make you feel small or mock your weaknesses, but will always give you love and respect. Many families (including her own) fall short of this, sometimes far short. Shashi describes her hopes of a haven free of contempt.

Title: The Heiress (1949)
Director: William Wyler
Language: English
Rating: Not rated

Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland) is the only child of a widowed doctor, Austin Sloper (Ralph Richardson), who often reminds her, in various small sighing ways, that she isn't nearly as beautiful, witty, charismatic, or accomplished as her late mother.

Though Catherine lacks a lot of the qualities that would make her a social success, she's still a kind and gentle person who's full of love. Unfortunately, the people closest to her place little if any value on her good nature.

Who does love her? Not her father - something she realizes more starkly as the film goes by. What about Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift), a handsome young man she meets at a party? Morris seems charming and tender, and it isn't long before he and Catherine are making plans to get married. But her father disapproves, insisting that Morris is a mere fortune hunter who's pretending to love Catherine because of her inheritance.


The movie is a powerful look at how betrayal and lack of love can harden someone. Catherine's fine qualities wither under the contempt, ruthlessness, and dishonesty displayed by the people she loves most.

Olivia de Havilland has an expressive face and eyes. She's wonderful at playing the sweet-natured, naive, helpful, loving, loyal, kind, shy, and socially awkward woman... and later transforming into the compelling figure of the cold and terrible beauty. (If you feel optimistic, you can hope that one day she will find someone honest and loving, and will not shut out the world entirely. That maybe her capacities for love and trust have not been permanently destroyed.)