Reel Asian 2023 Review | The Queen of My Dreams

by Andrew Parker

A richly detailed and ingeniously constructed examination into the ways we fear becoming our own parents, Fawzia Mirza’s first feature, The Queen of My Dreams is an effortlessly charming and moving crowd pleaser.

Azra (Amrit Kaur) is an MFA student in 1999 Toronto trying to make a go of it as a performer when she’s suddenly asked to travel to her parents’ homeland of Pakistan after her father (Hamza Haq) dies from a heart attack. The journey forces the queer and liberated Azra not only to observe the traditional rites and customs of the Muslim faith she largely left behind, but also puts her back into direct contact with her devout mother, Mariam (Nimra Bucha), with whom she has a rocky relationship.

Instead of merely making yet another movie about a mother and daughter who don’t get along, Mirza employs a time shifting narrative that goes back to 1969 Karachi, where young, movie adoring Mariam (played in the flashbacks by Kaur) doesn’t know how to tell her own parents that she plans on moving out of Pakistan the second she gets married, something that has been viewed as a dealbreaker by the family. It also makes a stop off in Sydney, Nova Scotia in 1989, where a tween-age Azra (Ayana Manji, who can also be seen in fellow Reel Asian 2023 selection Moustache) struggles to adjust to the differences between her Canadian and Pakistani heritages and begins to discover her budding sexuality.

The Queen of My Dreams (which gets its name from a classic Bollywood track that binds Mirza and Azra) revels in details both big and small to create a wholly believable family dynamic built upon all of the things parents and children take for granted. People sometimes forget that their parents and children have their own sets of traumas, dashed dreams, embarrassments, and struggles that define who they are and what they will become in the future. The Queen of My Dreams isn’t about mining a fraught mother-daughter relationship for easy, crowd pleasing truth, but rather an granular examination of the reasons people turn out the way they do and the gradual acceptance that goes along with those realizations.

Mirza’s time shifting structure is also quite snappy, often employing a nifty slideshow sort of editing technique to pull the viewer into and out of various eras in the story. The Queen of My Dreams (based in part on one of Mirza’s previous shorts) is a confident and fully realized crowd pleaser that values the audience’s intelligence and sense of compassion. It’s a definite winner.

The Queen of My Dreams opened the 2023 Reel Asian Film Festival For information on how to donate to the festival, or a full list of films, please visit the Reel Asian website. The Queen of My Dreams opens in theatres across Canada on Friday, March 22, 2024.

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