TIFF Review: Quickening

Sheila preparing to express her emotions

The journey faced by migrants leaving their home, families and cultures behind for a new and/or better life is long and often winding. The difficulties of integration. Of learning a new language and adapting personal beliefs and practices to fit into a new, often very different, society. However, it can often be the children of these immigrants who struggle most. Caught between the world they’re born into and the traditions of their parents. The Quickening follows a young woman wrestling with her identity.

Sheila (Arooj Azeem) is studying dance and approaching the end of her first year at university. Born and raised in Canada and living in the suburbs with her Pakistani (born) parents, her homelife and school life are very different. When she falls in love for the first time the teenager feels unable to confide in her parents about it, due to their cultural expectations. Stuck between schoolfriends who don’t understand and a traditional family, Sheila doesn’t know where to turn when she receives some bad news.

Quickening is a thoughtful and immersive drama about the challenges and struggles faced by second generation immigrants in Western societies. Young women of colour often face extra obstacles. Torn between tradition and the modern world she’s grown up in, Azeem gives a great performance which embodies Sheila’s unease, hurt and confusion. The story itself is a familiar one, but her circumstances and background are unusual and rarely seen on the big screen. Quickening is an enthralling and powerful first feature from Haya Waseem.

Quickening screens at Toronto International Film Festival.

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