As a film editor myself, I’m often surprised that more in my profession don’t make it to the director’s chair. I can come up with a few famous names like Robert Wise or Don Siegel, but most directors seem to gravitate from writing, cinematography or (I suspect) out of the ether. A career in the cutting room lends a unique perspective to the construction of a film and the knowledge of the pieces needed to tell the story. I suspect Haya Waseem’s time in the editor’s chair helped form her strong directorial vision for her coming of age feature, Quickening.

Although allowed a greater deal of freedom by her immigrant Pakistani parents than most other teens in her community, Sheila (Arooj Azeem) still harbors a great deal of anxiety, possibly borne from her recently fractured secret relationship with classmate Eden (Quinn Underwood). Matters aren’t helped by her father Azeem (Ashir Azeem) having recently lost his job, forcing the family to downsize.

Amidst all this, a positive pregnancy test threatens to generate even more chaos as Sheila finds herself utterly isolated and feeling she can’t tell anyone including best friend Alice (Crystal Roberts) and certainly not her harried mother Aliya (Bushra Ashir Azeem). But as time ticks on, silence is not a luxury she’ll have for long.

I said off the top that I sensed a strong directorial vision for Quickening and it is indeed evident from the opening frames that Waseem has taken what could have easily landed as a hackneyed made-for-TV premise and woven a more layered narrative out of the material. From inspired framing, to measured pacing and even some deliberate crossing of the 180 line, you can feel the director’s voice behind every shot and scene, assuring you that what you’re watching isn’t meant to be merely digested and quickly forgotten.

If the film has a fault, it may be in its overuse of understatement. This is an easy film to get lost in if not paying attention and as marvelous as her performance is, I sometimes got the sense that Arooj Azeem was compensating for some sparse script pages.

I’ve spoken before about the importance of unique storytelling voices in an increasingly cookie-cutter entertainment market. Quickening can be a challenging watch, but it is certainly a meaningful and worthwhile one, especially for anyone who has felt the crushing weight of keeping a secret from their friends and family. 





Quickening is currently available on VOD including Apple TV and Google Play

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