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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Honour movie review: oh woman oh why

Honour red light

A whole lotta violent bigoted men discussing women’s lives as if they merit any say in the matter. If only pop culture were as concerned with women’s stories as it is with men’s.
I’m “biast” (pro): was hoping for a smart exploration of a subject that is desperate for it

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

And I was so looking forward to this. So-called “honor” killings — where values of “honor” are, appallingly, all about nothing more than a woman’s virginity — are a horrific thing that impact women worldwide, even in the supposedly enlightened West. And it’s a subject that would warrant more attention in a pop culture that was as concerned with women’s stories as it is with men’s. The strictly cheap-thrills Honour reminds us, alas, that, yeah, pretty much, movies be all about teh menz, even the ones ostensibly about women. Here we have Mona (Aiysha Hart, who seems basically awesome in the few bits we get to see her in), a Londoner of Pakistani origin who is apparently shaming her good family name by dating her British-Punjabi boyfriend (Nikesh Patel); he’s even Muslim, for, er, Christ’s sake, but their fucking is unapproved and outside marriage, hence she is a brazen hussy and must die. I presume, from his name, that writer-director and TV vet Shan Khan is familiar with the cultural milieu, but even he focuses more on the men around Mona than Mona herself: after a truly gripping opening sequence in which we see how Mona is unsafe even among her closest family, whom, we would guess, love her most and dearest, Honour becomes more about the machinations of her brothers (Faraz Ayub and Shubham Saraf) and the conflicted motives of the bounty hunter (Paddy Considine: The Double) her family hires to find her than about what Mona might think or feel about these events. The ironies about the sense of authority that sister-killing men take for granted are only touched upon, and never given the smack they deserve. And too much of the unnecessarily convoluted and eventually preposterous storytelling relies on a change of heart for the bounty hunter that we are offered no basis for understanding. The film ends up being a whole lotta violent bigoted men discussing women’s lives as if they merit any say in the matter.


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Honour (2014)
US/Can release: Jul 11 2014 (VOD same day)
UK/Ire release: Apr 04 2014 (VOD Apr 18 2014)

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 15 (contains strong language, violence and sex references)

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • David

    ” a horrific thing that impact women worldwide, even in the supposedly enlightened West.” That statement makes no sense. Honor killings in the West are committed by people who have specifically and vocally rejected Western values. The fact that the west is “supposedly enlightened” is irrelevant because Muslim (and some Hindu) honor murderers are opposed to Western values.

  • David

    It is very annoying that a film that purports to highlight a way in which women are victimized and terrorized would not make the intended victim the central character. It reminds me of Mississippi Burning, in which a film about racism in the South has no 3-dimensional black characters. All of the multi-faceted characters are white.

  • The young woman in the film is undoubtedly Western. *She* has rejected the values of her immigrant parents. Yet she is still subject to their rules.

    The point is, honor killings and other honor violence are happening in the West, by people who are subject to Western law. Some UK stats: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-16014368 . And some numbers here on the prevalence in the US: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/honor-killing-under-growing-scrutiny-in-the-us/ .

  • LaSargenta

    Regarding this:

    Honor killings in the West are committed by people who have specifically and vocally rejected Western values.

    I disagree on two counts; one, regarding the nature of “Western Values”, that so-called western values could be considered simply “Enlightenment” values, which do not automatically include women (see endless debate about this over the last 3 and a half centuries, mostly in English, French and German) and, therefore, well, they are open to interpretation, and, two, that so-called honor killings happen all the time among people who supposedly live in a society that doesn’t condone such revenge — but, we call it domestic assault and murder. These acts are committed by people who are a product of the western society.

  • RogerBW

    The trailer seemed to say “over-worthy awards-bait”, but I guess not. If I’m generous, perhaps Khan just thought that the villains were more interesting people to write a story about.

    (The temptation to add in Pooneh Hajimohammadi’s character from The Machine is almost irresistible.)

  • David

    When you put it like that it makes sense.

  • David

    Honor Killing is more a form of terrorism in that it attempts to use violence in order to perpetuate a specific ideology or order. Some instances of domestic violence could fall into that category if it was condoned by a larger community and was intended to affect the behavior of more people than just the victim.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Honor Killing is more a form of terrorism in that it attempts to use violence in order to perpetuate a specific ideology or order.

    That’s exactly what terrorism is. In the same way that war is policy by other means. Terrorists and terrorist organizations aren’t Joker-esque villains out to sow chaos for chaos’ sake. They have very specific socio-political goals.

  • LaSargenta

    That is partly how domestic violence works. There are plenty of environments where it is held up as a warning if someone doesn’t behave themselves or used to reinforce a particular standard of behaviour. DV doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If it wasn’t at least passively condoned by a larger community, we never would have needed so much political and legal agitation to get laws changed or made.

  • There was a great panel at one year’s Wiscon (I think) called, “What These People Need Is A Honky” that was all about the phenomenon, how the “last samurai” is Tom Cruise, and the Navajo Code Talkers can only be shown through the eyes of their white protectors. And of course, that applies to women, gay people, etc.

  • Well, c’mon! How could we possibly empathize with Japs or Injuns or broads or anyone who’s not, y’know, normal without a white man to channel it all for us?

  • The only thing I can figure is that the average straight, white, able-bodied male who is NOT Stephen King is so bereft of imagination that he can’t identify with anyone who is not like himself. You know, the way the rest of us learn to do by the time we’re three or so.

  • RogerBW

    Yeah, I’ve never quite seen that.

    On the other hand one of the usual arguments for more inclusiveness is “black/female/etc. children need to see protagonists who look like them”. I don’t think one can have that one both ways.

  • Sure one can. One can point out that since everyone who *isn’t* a straight, white, able-bodied male spends their whole lives is able to identify with swa-bm characters, the swa-bm should be able to identify with characters who don’t look just like them, even as one acknowledges that seeing someone like oneself in fiction is a meaningful experience that everyone should get to enjoy on a regular basis, and that such is particularly important for children so that they can picture a wide variety of life options for themselves. One can even do that in one sentence if one tries really hard.

  • Bluejay

    swa-bm

    *skims first page of Google search results*

    Swimming with a blind man?

    Steering wheel hub, mid-range?

    SuperWonderAmazeballsMom?

    Oh wait. You said what it was right up top. Never mind.

    *slaps forehead*

  • Bluejay

    (And I don’t even know how the steering wheel thing got on there, wrong initials and all…)

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