Expectations and desires are not coming together very easily in Iram Haq’s feature-length debut film, I Am Yours (2013). It is Haq’s second outing as director and writer but continues on themes she has already presented in her short film Little Miss Eyeflap (2009): tradition, desire and responsibility for one’s actions. These are all presented through the very specific – and intriguing – lens as a woman of Pakistani descent living in Norway. With room to breathe, she deftly explores the tensions existing within the life of a woman who is of two worlds, torn by the desire to honor all people at all times and maintain a strong sense of identity.
This perspective provides a refreshing angle into the interior, albeit mostly amorous, divisions of a young woman with her feet planted deep into two very different cultural frameworks. The war between head and heart is constant during this quiet study. At the center is Mina (Amrita Acharia), a twenty-seven year old Norwegian-Pakistani single mother who spends her days going from audition to audition and searching for a lasting romantic connection. She is torn between her duties to her son Felix (Prince Singh), honoring her mother Samina’s (Rabia Noreen) wishes for marriage to man of her own choosing, and living in a fully liberated Western tradition. Mina thinks she may have found something special in Jesper (Ola Rapace), a Swedish film director who seems to care equally for Mina and Felix.
But the realities and weights of life soon set in, and it seems that Mina must pay the emotional toll for everyone’s demands. The consistent failure to keep all parts of her life in harmony is what is so simultaneously compelling and heartbreaking. The pressures applied by her Pakistani parents are constantly at odds with Mina’s desire to live in a more Norwegian (read: Western) fashion where she can date any man she chooses, wear what she wants to wear, or even pursue her own dreams of being an actress. Haq’s version of womanhood is fraught with the real pressures of young motherhood: watching Mina attempt to blend the lives of Jesper and Felix into a seamless unit is tense, the specter of clashing personalities lurks ominously in the background.
At one point, we watch Mina leave Felix at home alone so she can go out and spend time with Jesper. As a flimsy safeguard, she leaves Felix a phone to call her in case of emergency. Mina’s naïve attempts at responsible parenting are at odds with her desires to be a young woman in a budding relationship. Being culture-bound is another major theme here, with Haq showcasing the expectations of traditional Pakistani womanhood consistently barring Mina from pursuing her own version of happiness. Her mother’s incessant nagging about finding a husband and honouring her family constantly undermines Mina’s own sense of self. In the end, I Am Yours wonders just who precisely Mina belongs to and where her own agency lies. If one were to hazard a guess, it may just be that she belongs to the realm of heartbreak.
Allie Gemmill | @alliegem