ARIANA, is not a feel good movie. If your looking to laugh out loud or for a lighthearted escape from your day, this is not it. What it is, is a touching exploration of family dynamics in the face of adversity.
Starring Antiguan actor Shashi Balooja and directed by Michael Sandoval, ARIANA is a quick moving short film that follows same-sex couple Abbas (Balooja) and Karl (Tate Ellington) as they move into Abbas’ home together. Abbas and Karl are clearly in the honeymoon phase of their relationship and are giddy with the excitement of living together. Karl, is the easy going, fun loving yin to Abbas’ intense and career-focused yang. His joy at sharing space with his lover bubbles over from the start.
Also living with the men is Abbas’ grandmother Ariana. A third person in the home of a young couple would add understandable strain to any relationship, but because Ariana is showing signs of dementia the strain quickly becomes too much for both Abbas and Karl. Dealing with a sometimes lucid, sometimes not elder, an increasingly overwhelming medical career and a stay at home lover that demands more from their life than being caretaker to his boyfriend’s grandmother, proves to be too much for Abbas. He soon breaks under the pressure of it all.
We’ve seen this story before. Ailing parent/grandparent and loving but frustrated child/ grandchild is not a new tale. But we haven’t seen it told in this fashion. Abbas’ denial of this grandmother’s state is expected but his anger is not. For a Caribbean audience who has grown up with the idea that one must always honor and lovingly care for your elders, watching Abbas fail to do so is quite a shock. But the films’ strength is that it doesn’t turn away from this unseemly side of caregiving. Director Sandoval takes us deeper into how denial, anger and ultimately love affect how each member of this nontraditional family interacts with one another and how these emotions bends, breaks and builds the relationships between each.
As stated before, this is not lighthearted fare. But ARIANA is a moving film that speaks to the importance of honoring those who came before us while dealing honestly with the full range of emotions that come with that honor.
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