TIFF 2023: The Queen of My Dreams Explores the Trauma of a Queer Teenager

The film is a coming–of-age story of a queer, Bollywood-loving, second-generation immigrant in Canada
TIFF 2023: The Queen of My Dreams Explores the Trauma of a Queer Teenager
TIFF 2023: The Queen of My Dreams Explores the Trauma of a Queer Teenager

Director: Fawzia Mirza

Writer: Fawzia Mirza

Cast: Amrit Kaur, Nimra Bucha, Hamza Haq, Charlie Boyle, Ali A.Kazmi

Runtime: 97 mins

To those of us raised on Bollywood films, our notion of romance is shaped in song. It’s a man and a woman dancing to a memorable melody, full of rhythm and verve. It’s a woman dancing and singing while the man just stands there (you know those songs). The outfits are beautiful. The background dancers are vivacious and full of life. The voices of Lata Mangeshkar, Alka Yagnik, and Shreya Ghoshal spin words that you didn’t even know could be used to describe but somehow they do and it’s magic.

We look at the way the hero and heroine look at each other and imagine that one day someone would look at us in the same way. The exact same way Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol look at each other, with eyes that seem to erase the very boundaries of time and space. But what happens to those of us diehard romantics who realise, in our different ways, that we don’t look at others the same way that seemingly everyone does? That there is something different in the way we look at the world and who we look at with longing.

Azra (Amrit Kaur) realises this in a tender moment in her adolescence that quickly becomes traumatising. In that moment, like so many of us queers, she realises her own mother finds the desire she just discovered to be wrong, abhorrent, sinful. But queerness isn’t a phase or a spell put on you by your best friend that’ll go away if you pray hard enough. It is an inherent part of who we are and how we are. But as Azra grows more comfortable in her queer skin, that doesn’t mean that her mother Mariam (Nimra Bucha) grows in the same way.

The Queen of My Dreams
The Queen of My Dreams

Mariam has demons and traumas of her own, carried in part by her sense of generational obligation (with which a lot of us are far too familiar). That grappling with trauma is at the heart of The Queen of My Dreams, a film that tries to create a dialogue about how the people that matter to us the most can hurt us so deeply, how intergenerational traumas never really go away but simply manifest in different ways.

The film is also wickedly clever. Bursting at the seams with crackling wit and heartfelt dialogue, it crafts a unique way to explore the fraught relationship between a queer woman and her mother who hasn’t accepted her child for who she is. In that unique craftsmanship is writer and director Fawzia Mirza’s fabulous use of a classic Bollywood song and film that is such a treat in the way it unspools that I simply can’t spoil it here. But it is a treat of a film, a real heartfelt pleasure that could have chosen the route of narrative and character simplicity at many turns, but instead chooses the messier path whose resolution feels far from complete and in its own way, that much more satisfying.

Note: I’d be remiss if I didn’t note Hamza Haq’s pitch perfect performance as Hassan. A real gem.

Related Stories

No stories found.