*also published on ScreenQueens*
Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behaviour follows the story of Shirin (played by Akhavan) as she attempts to deal with being what her parents want her to be but at the same time staying true to herself and what she believes in – all whilst dealing with being dumped by her girlfriend Maxine. It’s one of the realest films I have seen for a long long time and was such a refreshing experience, because the events that occur are, for the most part quite mundane; but to me that’s what makes Appropriate Behaviour so brilliant – because it’s about life; pure and simple. Shirin’s emotions throughout the film are extremely raw due to her heartbreak and sadness – she acts rashly in several scenes and regularly blows things out of proportion It is these aspects of her character, which are so cleverly crafted by Akhavan that make her so appealing and relatable to most people, because it’s very easy to see yourself within her.
What makes Appropriate Behaviour so important is that it is one of a small number of films that manage to not make a rom-com where the main character is not heterosexual, all about their sexuality. Instead, it is purely about love and its ups and downs; something that there desperately needs to be more of. Shirin’s struggle to come out to her somewhat traditional parents with their disapproval of other sexualities does not drown out the other themes within the film, instead it gives it more layers and provides a truthful view of what it’s like to be in that situation and the stress and uncertainty that hangs over such an action.
Combine a captivating plot and strong jokes with beautiful cinematography and I’m sold; and boy did Appropriate Behaviour deliver on that front. Most of the shots were to die for; one that sticks out in particular is when Shirin is dropping her stuff from her ex-girlfriends apartment into the bin. The shots alone manage to convey her mixed feelings over the situation, something that many films try to do and fail. Extra credit goes out to the amazing soundtrack that partners it – it weaves into each scene perfectly and elevates what you are watching to a hyper-emotional level. Another aspect of the film that sticks out to me is the one based around how we all create situations in our head and imagine how they will play out, but when faced with the reality are more often than not disappointed and left feeling pretty empty. The scene where Shirin agrees to have a threesome with a couple she met at a bar is a prime example of this. What starts out as exciting and novel rapidly becomes excruciatingly awkward and disjointed, culminating with her leaving before anything really happened. While amusing, scenes such as this serve as a reminder that life is often not what it is set up to be.
Appropriate Behaviour is an aesthetically pleasing piece of film, with the shots of Brooklyn making me wish I lived there even more than before. But it is not style over substance – Akhavan is paving the way for female directors and is one of a growing number that are the future of cinema, her film is inspiring in a low-key yet persistent way and interweaves love, hurt and the joys in life that quite often follow that bad times perfectly. It’s also great to have a film that isn’t dominated or led by the typical straight white characters that is sadly still to prevalent in the industry. I started watching with high expectations and was not disappointed. A must watch for everyone.