Bittersweet memories - Cake (Not a movie review)

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In the recent few years, I am glad to have found movies on dysfunctional families which tell me, I am not alone. To be honest, though perfectly happy families were good to watch on screen, after a point they would hurt. For they seemed to be reminders of all the good things missing from your life. Worse, they left you with tons of expectations that would seldom get fulfilled. These movies have given me a sense of belongingness, one that I could rarely find in movies till now. And am so glad to have finally discovered them.I am attempting to write what one of the many movies I have loved made me feel. Cannot be called a review or a critic. It is more of a monologue on why I loved this movie.

Cake is a Pakistani movie, released in 2018. Made by Asim Abbasi, this movie has been the most talked about in recent times. It went onto win numerous awards and nominations apart from being picked by Netflix for global audiences. From its poignant storyline to its impressive star cast, this movie seems to have got everything right. 

The story revolves around Zareen (Aamina Sheikh) who is living with her aged parents in Pakistan and is their primary care giver. A medical emergency ensures her other siblings (who have been living abroad) visit Pakistan. The rest of the story is about skeletons from the past tumble from the cupboard and how they all deal with it. Her younger sister Zara (Sanam Saeed) and elder brother Zain (Faris Khalid) have their own issues in their personal and professional lives. All of a sudden what looks like a perfect life for all of them, turns out to be one which is actually ridden with guilt, hurt and misunderstandings where they are all alone battling with it.

If you notice, though the story is largely based in Pakistan, it is plausible anywhere across the world. Children moving out on growing up, choosing different cities and countries for their careers, parents being left behind to stay close to their roots - all works fine till one day when the parents realise they are old and can no longer live alone. They want their children to come back and the children have already flown too high for them to turn around. 

A lot of the unsaid is what always comes back to haunt us, hurt us and shake us up completely. This story is about all those unsaid things. Weaving across themes like adulting, loneliness, sibling rivalry and empty nest syndrome this story of a dysfunctional family leaves the viewer with mixed feelings. The cinematography is exceptionally beautiful and adds magic to the whole narrative. Some scenes are stories in their own sense.

This scene above is a heartwarming discussion between this aged couple, about where they want to be buried after death. Staring at the pictures of their children all throughout their growing up years, they debate on a decision taken decades ago and conclude how both of them had acted selfishly all their lives. Some of the scenes made me pause, not just to admire the depth in them but also to try and see beyond that scene. There is so much untold, and yet understood in those clips. These images are an attempt to encapsulate all that I couldn't through my words.

The one below has no dialogues, just this supposedly in love couple sitting together reading books. There is a certain comfort in this image for what they share is more than just love. It is respect, mutual understanding and admiration which is beyond everything else. They understand the unspoken and care deeply for each other. Somewhere I feel, that all of this reflects beautifully in this scene.

For me the most striking scene has to be the one where one of the lead character is on her death bed and the entire family sits around the bed, humming her favourite song, holding hands and shedding silent tears while waiting for the worst. This for me, is what the whole movie is about. This is what family is about. We hate each other, we hurt each other and yet when things turn for the worse, we are each other's biggest strength. Blood is surely thicker than water.

I love the colour scheme of this scene, such striking imagery. A woman breaking down in her room, wrapped in a blanket trying to seek warmth and comfort but is alone. In that huge house, there is no one who can hear her sobs or feel her pain enough to comfort her.

The anger, the helplessness, the guilt, the hurt mixed with the love we have for each other as a family is so beautifully captured that you cannot help but feel touched. This movie is a stark reminder that all dreams come at a price and it is a choice we make by choosing whether to pay that price or not. If life is kind then you don't get any reminders about how costly was that dream but if life chooses to be harsh, then you will keep receiving reminders about it. And there is nothing you can do about it, except adding onto your guilt. If you notice every character in this movie was chasing a dream and had to pay a price of it till all of them reached a stage where they were reminded of how heavy a price they ended up paying for it. 

The songs are haunting and soothing at the same time. They don't feel like a disturbance, rather they have the ability of carrying the narrative forward through them. Lingering and magical, they are have a strong distinct local flavour and are yet soft and comforting. Sharing one of my favourites with you here:

The two lead female actresses have done a stupendous job. Every emotion, every heartbeat of those Zareen and Zara are so beautifully depicted. Sleepless nights, frustration, feeling of displacement, loneliness, craving for love, intimacy, attention - they lived those characters in every scene. Their depiction was so real that for a while briefly I forgot that I was watching a movie.  

I don't know whom I connected more with - Zareen or Zara. Was I feeling lost like Zareen, burdened with too many expectations and responsibilities to an extent that my dreams had got buried under that weight? Or Was I Zara, away from it all, with a man I loved and wanted but still lonely because once the love vanished what remained was two strangers who merely shared the same roof. Both Zara and Zareen have been shown as strong, determined, confident and extremely sorted about what they wanted in life. At the same time, both needing each other as sisters still unable to express that need. They run businesses, take charge and can also change tyres if need be! Their depiction was like a breath of fresh air, away from all those stereotypical female characters in movies usually.

The climax was truly the cherry on the cake with a 10 minute long continuous shot across characters and rooms. The sudden turn of events happened so quickly that it took me a while to process them as the scene slowly froze on this image.

Long after the movie credits ended, I still kept sharing at this image on my screen. There was so much to be felt in this scene and I didn't want to get out of this feeling just yet. The pain of losing a loved one, the confusion about what next, the anger on not knowing what to do now and the helplessness of it all ! This scene left me with goosebumps.

Ever watched a movie that left you feeling broken and still it strangely comforted you? Well, Cake movie was that for me.

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