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#TIFF21 Review: Quickening (Discovery)

September 12, 2021

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

The feature debut of writer-director Haya Waseem, who has made a number of short films, Quickening is a young adult drama told from the unique perspective of a young Pakistani-Canadian woman in the GTA suburbs. The film centres around Sheila (Arooj Azeem), who is in her first year of university in a performing arts program. She is dealing with a number of pressures in her life, including problems at home with her traditional parents (played by Azeem’s real life parents, Ashir Azeem and Bushra Ashir Azeem), who are struggling to understand her need for independence.

When Sheila hooks up with her classmate Eden (Quinn Underwood), who starts ignoring her shortly afterwards, she starts to emotionally and mentally unravel. The film has a psychological element to it that feels somewhat underdeveloped, and the story itself wades into fairly typical teen melodrama territory. But the cultural specificity of Quickening gives it an interesting edge.

Waseem shows promise behind the camera, and the film is shot through an artistic lens. Christopher Lew’s cinematography has a moody look to it, relying on long takes with the camera locked off observing the action through master shots, and some slow fade-throughs between scenes. Finally, Quickening is carried by solid performances from Azeem and her parents, who are quite believable in their scenes together.

Public Screenings:

Sunday, September 12th – 8:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox

Monday, September 13th – 1:00 PM at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox

Thursday, September 16th – 1:00 PM at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox

Thursday, September 16th – 9:00 PM at RBC Lakeside Drive-In at Ontario Place

The 2021 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 9th to 18th.

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