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Home > Polite Society (2023): A Review

Polite Society (2023): A Review

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A Creative and Wildly Fantastic Feminist Film That Packs a Punch

The directorial debut of Nida Manzoor features powerfully bright women, deliciously choreographed fight scenes, and a plethora of superb performances, making the film one of the most enjoyable watches to date. Though Polite Society is far from perfect with its slightly contrived and lopsided plotline, it was received well at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, and it grossed over 2 million at the UK box office with its release in April of 2023. The film was produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Olivier Kaempher, and John Pocock. Focus Features distributed the film to the Sundance Film Festival in January, while Universal Pictures oversaw its international release. 

Polite Society follows younger sister Ria as she strives to inspire her older sister Lena to pick up art again after flunking out of art school. Ria’s plans are derailed when Lena is swept heartfirst into an arranged marriage, doomed never to pick up a paintbrush again (much to Ria’s horror). It’s a heartwarming and hilariously witty film that touches on feminist themes through the dramatics of Bollywood and the intensity of kung fu. 

A Refreshing Spin on an Old Tale

The arranged marriage trope is a worn-out film synopsis, to say the least. However, Polite Society takes the concept and twists it into something delightfully different, making the film less about the patriarchy (although that is a sizable theme in the movie) and more about all the social constructs that dictate how and what women should dream and/or strive for. The film delves deep into the ways in which women are socialized from a young age to abandon their dreams for the sake of marriage as if there is nothing more that a woman should hope for. 

The pacing of the film remained upbeat and fast throughout the whole 104 minutes, not once skipping a beat or faltering, and the overall aesthetics of the film were pleasing to the eye, from their traditional Pakistani dress to the quaint house the sisters reside in. However, the plot twist of the film was perhaps a bit too out there, making the climax unrelatable and contrived. Still, the disturbing plot twist was highly symbolic and drove the film lessons home, making it extremely hard to forget, even if it was a bit out of pocket. Overall, the plot and aesthetics of the film made it a unique and highly entertaining watch.  

A Tale of Two Sisters 

Polite Society is brimming with hilariously relatable characters, a nod to the brilliancy and creativity of the casting crew and actors. Ritu Arya (The Umbrella Academy) starred as Lena, and Priya Kansara (The Bastard Son and The Devil Himself) starred as Ria, both of whom delivered fantastic performances that made the film that much more enjoyable to watch. Their dynamic was tangible, and their relationship relatable, with both actresses playing off one another in a very engaging and upbeat fashion. However, as the plot traversed further into the arranged marriage storyline, Arya’s character, Lena, lacked dimension on her own. She becomes one-sided as a character; however, it is unclear whether this is on purpose, to further the themes embedded in the plot, or if it is due to a subpar performance. Regardless, Kansara’s character, Ria, continued progressing as a complex character. The actresses shined brightest when they were working together. 

Though Arya and Kansara were the shining stars of the movie, the rest of the cast delivered remarkable performances as well. Nimra Bucha (Kamli) starred as Rahleena, Shobu Kapoor (Citizen Khan) starred as Fatima, Ella Bruccoleri (Call the Midwife) starred as Alba, and Seraphina Beh (Top Boy) starred as Clara. The script was also quite brilliant. It was witty without being too cringy, emotional without being annoyingly over the top, and relatable without being too simple. 

Polite Society Mid Image

Creative Cinematography 

Polite Society is a fantastic cocktail of genres from Bollywood to Karate film to action/comedy, making the score, aesthetics, and cinematography unique and engaging. The score, directed by Tom Howe and Shez Manzoor, is dynamic, a blend of multiple genres that boosts the mood of the film and adds to the pacing of the plot. The fight scenes are a joy to watch as cinematographer Ashley Connor captures creative angles and eccentric moments. Especially when characters fly through the air, kicking and punching their way across the room in a dramatic flourish, or when the lighting and angles combine to create beautifully raw close-up shots. A fight scene, in particular, stands out among the rest as characters fly, leap, and punch in bright dresses and clothes, bathing the frames in flashes of moving silks and glittering jewels. 

Polite Society is a Splendid Directorial Debut

Although partially flawed, Polite Society is an enjoyable watch, from the intriguing plotline to the remarkable performances and creative cinematography. And though it’s not necessarily a must-watch, it’s a feminist film with something everyone can enjoy, lessons to be learned, and laughs to share. Polite Society can be watched on Amazon Prime, Peacock, YouTube TV, and Apple TV with a subscription. 

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Polite Society (2023) Focus Features Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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I am an aspiring author living and working out of Honolulu, Hawaii. I received my bachelor's degree in Art History at Westmont College and then pursued a master's in Museum Studies at the University of Hawaii. I am currently working on a few novels, and am thankful for the opportunity to expand my creative writing voice at Dead Talk Live.