Complex Love: Our Review of ‘Sir’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - April 19, 2019
Complex Love: Our Review of ‘Sir’

Full disclosure – I was the kind of person who had live in domestic help. My transition between that and being a perpetually broke person is a story for another time. But my past comes in handy while watching Rohena Gera’s debut feature. Sir is about an Indian domestic helper who lives with her boss. Her name is Ratna (Tillotama Shome). The threat of verbal abuse is just around the corner as a part of her job.

Ratna works for Ashwin (Vivek Gomber). He’s a sad sack of a millennial who hates the real estate job that he inherited from his family. His character could go either way. He could take his misery out on her, as most of his class does, but instead, he’s nice to her. He’s not nice enough to defend his friends who are mean to her, but he’ll get there eventually.

What takes place here are two character studies but to its credit, this is thankfully more about Ratna than her titular sir. Most movies about domestic help have been good about showing their lives outside their jobs and this story one-ups that trope. It shows her ambitions beyond being a perpetual domestic help. This is an India where people can have dreams.

Ratna also studies to become a tailor and fashion designer. And in telling that part of the story, this movie is a compromise between two styles – bombastic Bollywood and Indian Neorealism. The musical cues are still there, and as obvious as they may be, they add magic to the spaces Ratna is in. Pierre Aviat’s score keeps the mood light even if she’s in her claustrophobic domestic quarters.

Most of this story takes place in Ashwin’s condo, which means that he and Ratna spend a lot of time together. It doesn’t take Nostradamus to figure out that they’ll have a relationship outside of work. At first, the story takes it to that inevitability way too slowly. But there’s something we can appreciate in how Gera plays with the romantic drama’s three act structure.

What comes with that structural play, one with moderate success, is Shome’s performance. There’s a meekness to most domestic characters, which can limit Shome. But she has her imperfect yet memorable smile to cancel that out. Her scenes with Gomber and the other actors also show, through her deep voice, how Ratna is the only adult in the room.There’s also credit due for Gomber whose physicality expresses both Ashwin’s depressions and what or who gets him out of it.

Romantic stories either, obviously, have good or bad endings. Sometimes, the third act separation is painful enough that a good ending won’t seem saccharine. This film has its structural issues but what it does is root for its characters. It does so by showing their complex emotions when they realize their love and what’s stopping that from coming into fruition. That’s really important here, much more than whether or not these two people who love each other end up together.

  • Release Date: 4/19/2019
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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