First-time director Iraq Ham’s “I Am Yours, Norway’s official Oscar submission, is a subdued, unvarnished portrait of a young mother unready for her responsibilities. Loose cannon Mina is both seductive and hard to watch, a casebook study of bad decisions.
Driven by a desire for immediate gratification, she’s unable to put her son’s welfare first. An overgrown child herself looking for love, the narcissistic would-be actress leaves a string of disillusioned family and lovers in her wake, until the audience itself is ready to dump her.
Emotionally volatile, Mina’s on a tightrope throughout the film, ostracized by her family and ex-husband. And her stakes keep rising as chasing her dream grows harder and harder.
27-year-old MIna, a Pakistani living in Oslo, Norway, with her 7-year-old son Felix (Prince Singh) is an incorrigible flirt. Her architect ex-husband (Assad Siddique) the father of her child left her. She shares custody as Felix is shuttled from her house to the house he shares with his new wife (Sara Khorami.)
She’s spinning a long distance romance with handsome Swedish film director Jesper
(“Skyfall” actor Ola Rapace (Noomi “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’s” ex!). The unstable out of work actress meets the new man of her dreams at an audition. Their courtship is heady, neo-Nouvelle Vague The two play like teenagers in love.
When he goes back to Stockholm she follows with Felix. It’s painful to watch Felix try to adapt, there’s no room for a third child.
Felix is drawn to the father figure, but like all young children of divorce fears the loss of his mother’s love to a rival. Truculent Felix swings from mood to mood, alternatingly affectionate then resistant, he pulls the old going limp bit. Hard working Jesper understands, and sends them back, as much for himself as Felix.
Her controlling upwardly mobile mother Samina (brilliantly played by Rabia Noreen) has had it with her. Samina arrives and cleans her apartment in efficient, mute disapproval. Watching Samina’s cold treatment of Mina, explains her desperate attempts to get love from any corner.
Men, sensing her desperation, take advantage. But not all; her ex-husband was caring until she drove him a way.
On a one-night stand with a pretty nice guy, Mina turns on the steam heat and then in a remarkable passage of emotions experiences a nervous breakdown.
Amrita Acharia (“Game of Thrones”) captures all the yearning and dysfunctional self-justification as well as the sexy parts of the doomed romance. Actress/singer turned director Iram Haq knows that community well, and experienced censure and estrangement from her own family because of her artist life-style.
Apparently the film breaks other taboos. Pakistani girls just don’t openly flirt in public much less kiss a man, even in a European ex-pat community.
Resisting judgment. Haq’s not afraid of moral ambiguity, preferring to bring her big game home alive to providing a tidy emotional conclusion. It’s the role of a lifetime for the polyglot actress who began her career with a walk on as a sexy schoolgirl in “The Devils Bodyguard. (The Nepalese-Ukranian actress grew up in Kathmandu, Ukraine, England and Norway)
Lovely Acharia with her liquid eyes and mobile features resembles a little sister to director Ira Haq. Together they fashioned a character you love and hate in equal measure. Her fluid availability to the camera makes us believe her struggle to adapt and evolve.
Poor Mina’s desperate for love, in a vocation that invites abuse and pandering. The tension of her unresolved issues makes her flub her auditions. Labile and needy, she blows any modicum of cool she’s achieved.
We watch as Mina slowly begins to understand how she and the men around her all use and degrade her. Although she’s able to buck the conservative Pakistani community, their traditional expectations make it that much harder for her to stand up for herself. It takes her cathartic breakdown for anything to change.
Trapped between worlds, she’s too impulsive and spontaneous for the Pakistan community, too self-effacing for Norway’s post-feminist society. Born to act out, she refuses to go down without a struggle. Despite Acharia alluring charms, the film is anything but ingratiating, casting an unflinching eye on a very modern issue; narcissistic young single mothers adrift in a “gimme gimme” society; filtered through the complications of Immigrant reality.
An exquisite edit by Janus Billeskov Jansen (“The Hunt”, “The Act of Killing”) and Anne Østerud (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Hunt”, “Pusher”), straight ahead, low-key cinematography by DP Marek Septimus Wieser (“Patrik, Age 1.5”, “The Hidden Child”) and DP Cecilie Semec, and the gritty, evocative production design by Ann Kristin Talleraas complete an accomplished package. Plays at the Palms Springs Film Festival, Jan 5th and 7th.