Sheila (Arooj Azeem), a Pakistani-Canadian university student, is trying to find her independence while dealing with traditional and overbearing parents. As she experiences love, sex, and heartbreak for the first time, Sheila has to deal with the fallout of those things essentially on her own. She doesn’t seem to mesh well with her family or her peers. With the exception of one friend, Sheila doesn’t confide in anyone.
Directed by Haya Waseem, Quickening is an interesting look at the immigrant experience and the difficulties navigating cultural traditions versus independence. As a first generation Canadian, Sheila has certain values that she is expected to uphold. In one scene, Sheila is asked by a family member if she has forgotten those values. In many scenes, it’s apparent that Sheila is conflicted between her family life and the life that she is trying to create as an adult. You can almost see her mulling this over in her head as she quietly goes about her business.
On top of her own experiences, we see Sheila’s parents going through their own difficulties. As immigrants trying to make their way in Canada who desire to make their children happy, Sheila’s parents experience financial hardship which threatens to uproot them again.
Sheila is a very contemplative character but doesn’t seem to let the audience in. Personally, I found it difficult to connect with her. Although, perhaps this speaks more about the tribulations that she was experiencing during this time in her life. Even thought she was going through quite a complicated mental health struggle, Shiela was forced to keep it inside so she wouldn’t reveal anything to her family.
There were numerous unique camera angles throughout the film that would often cut off the heads of the characters. In some scenes, I found this style creative but, in others, I felt like perhaps I was missing out on something. While I was very interested in one of the main plot points of the film, I didn’t feel as though it was fleshed out enough. I wanted to know more about this particular situation. Though the piece was coming to a crescendo, it still felt vague about its. intentions to me.
Quickening premiered on Saturday, September 12th, 2021 at the Toronto International Film Festival.