Past and Present: Our Review of ‘The Queen of My Dreams’

Posted in Theatrical by - March 22, 2024
Past and Present: Our Review of ‘The Queen of My Dreams’

Fawzia Mirza’s new film The Queen of My Dreams has three settings. The first is in 1999 in Toronto, where Azra Baji (Amrit Kaur), a Pakistani-Canadian and a student actress. She lives freely with her girlfriend. A private night together gets interrupted even if her mother, Mariam (Nimra Bucha), is on a trip to Karachi. She phones Azra to tell her that her father and Mariam’s husband Hassan Malik (Hamza Haq) dies of a heart attack.

Hassan’s death frays the already testy relationship between both women as both have to adhere to Islamic funeral rites. The second setting is 1969 in Karachi, where Mariam, as a young lady (also Kaur), has more in common with Azra than the conservative one who she knows. The third is in Sydney, Nova Scotia in 1989, where Hassan’s first heart attack drives Mariam into Islam. This drives her further from young Azra (Ayana Manji) who is awakening to her sexuality.

I usually resent films like The Queen of My Dreams because every artsy gay immigrant has a screenplay they have yet to write that juxtaposes gay sex with a parent’s death, but I’m also sure that, despite some nitpicks, that this version of that story is better than the ones that stay dancing in people’s – my – heads.

Pakistan is a country that barely gets screen time, and thankfully, the film depicts that country with dimension. The Queen of My Dreams depicts its version of 1969 with such vibrancy, especially that wedding scene where Mariam raises some eyebrows. She dresses like a boy and dances with her best friend Rani (Meher Jaffri), hinting at the kind of strong willed daughter she eventually raises.

Young Mariam’s scenes with Hassan also play out like Mad Men. But it’s a welcome reference because we’re far enough from that iconic show’s last episode. This makes it ok to see a Pakistani version of cigarette smoking, cocktails, glamourous flight attendants. And lastly, two young people regaling each other with stories about their proximity to The Beatles.

All of this is happening while Young Mariam has her parents seeing potential husbands for her. Both are already seeing each other on the sly. However, Islamic tradition dictates that Hassan has to meet her the way couples meet each other in that tradition. A relatively low stakes film where the big event happens in the beginning. But it knows how to add tension as Hassan’s dream of going to Canada, which Mariam’s mother resents.

As a BIPOC lesbian filmmaker, Mirza also gives some spotlight to both cultural and gender diversity within Karachi during the 1960s. My biggest nitpick here is that she doesn’t do the same for the 1999 scenes. There’s enough of the dynamic between Azra and her brother Zahid (Ali A. Kazmi) but the film can use more of that. The same goes for the 1989 scenes. Although, there is enough of Mariam selling tupperware to the locals (Kirstin Howell) and Azra befriends people her age (Emerson MacNeil). But there are good scenes during the 1999 timeline, like the bootlegging one. Those scenes are just one of a few that shows how well The Queen of My Dreams balances drama with levity.

Watch The Queen of My Dreams on select Canadian theatres.

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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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