Director: Ivan Ayr
Release: January 18, 2019 (Netflix)
Soni is a wonderfully nuanced tale of two Indian police women and their fatiguing journey through a world of bull shit and fuck boys. It’s Hindi-language. Illiterates be warned.
The age of Netflix is upon us. Roma is a best picture nominee and I can watch it at home, essentially for free, without having to shower. It’s not a fair fight at this point. In twenty years we’re going to be talking about movie theaters the way our parents talk about outdated concepts like gas for a nickel or civil discourse.
Soni is the first serious drama Netflix has released since Roma and it’s another foreign language film. Going in, the interest is in whether or not Netflix can keep up the momentum that it has built for itself, particularly with more sophisticated audiences.
Soni delivers. It’s a human story about how tiring it can be to be a woman on this earth.
Soni is a hindi-language film that follows two female police officers living in the city of Delhi, India. Soni and her supervisor Kalpana are tasked with doing police work in a city that has the sexual chill of an Arizona State frat party. Soni, intelligent as she may be, is a hot-head and lets her frustrations with the patriarchy get the best of her while Kalpana does her best to reign in her subordinate. The movie puts these women on full display to help the audience feel their burden.
Soni is not a narrative driven crime drama where “X” happens and then law enforcement sets out to solve the case. It is, rather, a profoundly sharp critique on how women, even women who appear to be in a position of authority, have to constantly and carefully navigate a world that is set up to keep them down.
The movie is highly effective at bringing these issues to a thought-provoking light. If you’re like me, by the end you’ll want to castrate yourself just so there’s one less man out there.
The nuance, the intertwining of themes, the realism; Soni does not miss a single beat. It isn’t preachy in the least. The tone is subdued, reserved even. At no time do you feel like you’re being beat over the head with any one agenda. But still, the movie paints a cruel picture of what it’s like to be a woman in this shit-hole of a world. No one’s leaving this one with a good taste in their mouth.
Geetika Vidya Ohlyan does a great job as the understated title character. Much like Yalitza Aparicio in Roma, this is her first movie roll and she lives up to the billing.
This movie feels important and timely, even though it’s foreign and not a direct response to any American movement. Every theme that this movie gets into is an issue any woman in America would relate to. When you put those issues into a foreign setting, and the audience can see them from a removed perspective, the arguments can be more effective.
I would recommend this movie to any and everyone. Women and men of all ages, with an extra special recommendation to your homeboy who hits on Chili’s waitresses. I’m excited to see what other festival favorites Netflix brings us in 2019.