Part drama about a failing marriage, part drama about the difficulty of living alongside a reality that your life won’t be what you hoped it would be, Beloved has the crux of La La Land, with the style of Paterson and the quiet resonance of East Asian cinema. Its protagonists flitter between endless casting auditions, seeking romantic fulfilment, and the consequences of dumb mistakes, all while desperately trying to run after a dream that the world doesn’t want them to have.
Anar (Iveel Mashbat) and Kassy (Jana Miley) are five years into their marriage. Anar spends his days working in a bar, and Kassy spends hers attending auditions. They have fallen into domestic routine, and they are happy. Yet, as the days pass, there is an emptiness, a gap, that romance once filled. As more days pass, they try to fill in that gap on their own, and a few bad choices are enough to crack the semblance of happiness. Over the course of six months, each one tries to patch together what they want their life to be in conflict’s wake.
Beloved is a tender, slow-going film that thrives on the technical strengths of its director. The story feel shown to us, rather than involving us in its complicated situation, told from mostly static shots framed artistically and with perfectly balanced light. We’re always the observer, behind the head of a car seat, looking through a window from just far enough away to witness and not interfere. The screen is dreamlike, its light just a little bit heightened, and it almost glows. It feels like one of those dreams that is so close to reality but where everything crumbles so much faster to utter disaster. And sometimes it feels like that when you’re awake too – that’s what director Bishrel Mashbat has captured.
It has to be said that some of the side plots feel a tad cliché, if only because they’ve been trodden in various ways a hundred times before, but there’s real heart in the core narrative of two people coming to terms with their wants changing. We never see Anar and Kassy in harmony; from the moment we jump into their story, things have already started to stall between them. But instead of placing the blame of harsh judgment on either character, the film takes a slower approach to the realities of people not fitting together as perfectly as they perhaps once did. This marriage breaks apart quietly. There are no yelled fights, no dramatic threats, just the silent sound of shattering.
So how do you resolve a story about the harsh realities of life? You can’t wrap it up with a nice little bow or suddenly backtrack on the whole plot with a happy ending. But you can let your characters come to the bittersweet realisation that people change and grow, sometimes apart. Mashbat ends his film with a gentle reminder that good memories can stay good, but you can give up the bad things and move on as well.
Beloved releases on Amazon Prime Video in January
by Daisy Leigh-Phippard
Daisy (she/her) studied film production at Arts University Bournemouth and freelances in the industry with the aspiration of becoming a director and screenwriter. A lover of independent and foreign film with female perspectives, her favourites include Pan’s Labyrinth, The Handmaiden, Frida and anything that has ever come out of Hayao Miyazaki’s brain. You can see her work on her website and follow her on Twitter, Letterboxd and Instagram.
Leave a Reply