Published Sep 16, 2013Mina (Amrita Acharia), a single mother living in Norway's expatriate Pakistani community, is a problematic, morally ambiguous protagonist. She's at odds with her traditionalist family, shaming them with her flirtatious, irreverent behaviour — making them social outcasts — by dating emotionally unavailable, self-absorbed (occasionally attached) men and acting as an unlikely, not altogether self-sacrificing mother for her six-year-old son, Felix (Prince Singh)
She's also an actress prone to messing up auditions, much like how she sabotages relationships, being too eager and needy to sustain her surface desirability beyond introductions. In short, she's an indulgent screw-up, perpetually looking for external validation from men to fill the void her family's disapproval leaves, one meeting the crossroads between traditional Pakistani life and Norwegian modernity while being kicked to the periphery of both worlds.
As presented by Iram Haq (an actress and singer making her surprisingly assured feature film debut), Mina is a well intentioned, but emotionally irresponsible and flawed character. Haq, despite keeping things grounded in reality, not shying away from Mina's tendency to degrade herself and make ethically debatable decisions, keeps everything loose enough to allow Acharia to realize this conflicted and challenging character.
Instinctually, we should hate her. When she meets Jesper (Ola Rapace), a Swedish filmmaker who initially seems ideal, she leaves her son alone and ignores him to ensure that his selfish, somewhat adolescent disposition is placated. Mina never stands up for herself, even when the hesitation in her eyes shows that she's aware she's being foolish or used.
Haq is careful to avoid victimization and vilification. Though Mina is obviously a victim of her situation and upbringing, trying to be accepted by a society that isn't entirely embracing of difference, she's also intelligent and capable enough to be able to read her son's moderate indifference towards her. It's her realization of self and gradual consciousness of how she appears to others that make I Am Yours such a devastating and touching work.
Every situation that occurs — traveling to Sweden on a whim to be with a man; going on promiscuous drinking binges; stripping on Skype to appease the drunken needs of someone who treated her like crap — stems from logical character decisions. Nothing about this extremely well-acted and consistent character drama is contrived or forced, just as there isn't necessarily a catharsis or realization that suggests she'll live happily ever after once she develops a bit of a backbone.
Haq is more interested in examining and capturing the essence of a complicated character in the middle of a cultural vortex than inserting life lessons or reassuring moral certainty. As such, I Am Yours is tinged with unpredictability and tragedy, capturing the unflattering reality of being an imperfect human in a world filled with people similarly focused on their own immediate needs.
It's an auspicious debut for Haq and a career-defining performance for Acharia.