“So many people live their lives hoping they’ll see home again. Only it never happens.”
– Priya Guns (This Place)
This Place tells the story of Kawenniiohstha (Devery Jacobs), a young Mohawk woman who moves to Toronto to go to school. When she arrives, she is instantly attracted to Malai (Priya Guns), a young Tamil woman, and the two begin to spend increasing amounts of time together. However, as love begins to bloom between them, their family histories create a wedge between them that threatens their relationship.
Directed by V.T. Nayani, This Place is a sweet romance that crosses cultural boundaries in the middle of the big city. By rooting the film in Toronto, Nayani reminds the viewer of the loneliness that can be experienced in the urban jungle. To these young women, Toronto represents a world of opportunity but they both feel lost within it. As a result, Much of the joy of Place stems from the chemistry between its leads. Both Jacobs and Guns feels genuine and they carry a sweetness between them. Although they are both on separate journeys, it’s the scenes when they are together which gives this Place its heart and soul.
It’s worth noting that Place also creates fascinating conversations about racial identity. With its urban setting, the film highlights the misunderstandings and stereotypes that come in a place of many. For example, despite often being mistaken for Indian, Malai is adamant that she’s Tamil. At the same time, Kawenniiohstha’s Mohawk heritage may define her upbringing but her Iranian father adds greater complexity to her story. This sort of attention to detail adds greater depth to the characters in their understanding of themselves, including their sexuality. Family traditions matter but Place recognizes that people in major urban centres are constantly defining (and redefining) themselves in beautiful ways. (“This [stuff] only happens here,” Malai’s brother grumbles.)
However, This Place is more than just a story of interracial romance in a multicultural metropolis. Instead, it’s the tale of two people dealing with the family scars. For instance, both Kawenniiohstha and Malai have troubled pasts that have shaped the way that they interact with the world. Torn between her brother and father, Malai struggles to reconcile her family trauma as her father falls ill. At the same time, Kawenniiohstha is left to piece together the hurts of an absentee father as the secrets of his disappearance are revealed. As they deal with their emotional pain, tension grows within their relationship (and themselves). For Malai and Kawenniiohstha, their stories of hurt impede them from growth.
Because, in This Place, these young lovers need to wrestle with their past before they can live in the present.
In this way, Place leans into the challenge of making a home in the modern world. For these young women, home is more than a static place. Instead, it is rooted in the relationships and love that is felt amongst the people where you are. Although their lives are tied to their families (and countries) of origin, This Placeunderstands that home is more than about blood relations and history. As such, the concept of home becomes relative, constantly moving and fluctuating.
After all, as long as you feel valued and safe, it can wherever you are and with anyone.
This Place is available in theatres on Friday, July 7th, 2023.