Signature Move — directed by American artist/filmmaker Jennifer Reeder — is very sweet and a lot of fun. The two Chicago girls — Alma and Zaynab — are easy to love and the story seems to tell itself effortlessly. Coming out to one’s family is clearly harder when the family is traditional/conservative one, but the film cheers for those bravely determined to be themselves and seek happiness where it is is truly to be found. I laughed many times and enjoyed the film so much! Signature Move is a highly recommended, “feel good movie.” (ELO: 4/5)
Editor’s Note: Eti’s Signature Move “sneak peek” (above) appears in her on-the-scene post about Tel Aviv’s 2017 International LGBT Film Festival.
Review by FF2 Contributor Eti Or
Directed by American artist/filmmaker Jennifer Reeder, Signature Move is very sweet and lots of fun. The two Chicago girls — Alma and Zaynab — are easy to love and Reeder’s story seems to tell itself effortlessly. Coming out to one’s family is clearly harder when the family is a traditional/conservative one, but the film cheers for those bravely determined to be themselves and seek happiness where it is truly to be found. I laughed many times and enjoyed the film so much!
The story in Signature Move is told from two perspectives;
One is Zaynab’s POV. Zaynab (Fawzia Mirza) is a young lawyer who lives with her mother and is always out (either for work or just living her life). Zaynab is very active, and connected to her community and its roots. She is starting to live an independent life, but is also highly committed to her mother.
The other POV is Parveen’s. Parveen (Shabana Azmi) is Zaynab’s mother. Stuck at home on a recliner, Parveen doesn’t work and still grieves for her husband (who passed away a year earlier). She is very conservative and wants her daughter to marry a man of their origin and customs. She spies on her neighbors out of boredom and is always attempting to find a match for Zaynab.
Parveen also watches soap operas for hours every day, living her life in front of the television, and waiting for her daughter to come home. Funny enough, the accompanying soap operas are always parallel with events in “real life.”
In a way, Parveen has no life of her own. She lives through her daughter and gets offended when Zaynab tries to resist — wanting to live her own life by her own rules. Zaynab never tells her mother private details and specifically avoids the biggest one — she keeps her lesbian identity a closely-held secret.
Parveen keeps asking Zaynab about everyday life, milking her for details such as her routine at the gym, both to get the full picture and also be able to feel like she is a part of her life. On the other hand, whenever Zaynab tries to get her to go outside, Parveen refuses and sticks to her beloved couch. “Why should I go? I have everything I need right here” she says. Parveen lives in the past, while Zaynab lives in the future.
The silent struggle between mother and daughter is shown throughout the film in little moments of resentment. Tiny little fights in which Zaynab always ends up feeling bad and sorry. Meanwhile Parveen keeps rearranging the pictures on the wall, then Zaynab changes them back every time she walks in. Yet, despite all, they have a close relationship, knowing they are each other’s only family.
Every time Parveen looks out the window, her comments about the goings on outside are hilarious. The film is leavened with pearls of humor, which is necessary in order to be able to deal with the conflicts — traditional versus modern, mature versus young, mother versus daughter.
And all the while, we — in the audience — get to enjoy the beautiful colors of Pakistani life in America, the wonderful fabrics and jewelry in Parveen’s wardrobe, the street stores and joyful music.
Zaynab is afraid to get attached in a relationship (maybe because she sees her mother grief and suffering after her father’s death), however, life surprises her. She falls in love with the beautiful and vivacious Alma (Sari Sanchez).
Alma’s life is the exact opposite from Zaynab’s. Her family is very liberal, her mother lets her live her life, and she voluntarily tells her everything over a casual breakfast. Her mother is very supportive, and she listens to her then offers advice.
And always in the background is a story about a subculture of pro wrestling for women. Zaynab is learning to wrestle as a way to be paid by one of her customers. Alma’s mother had been a wrestler too, so this world is no stranger to her. Every time Zaynab goes to a wrestling lesson, she is being beaten by her teacher, both with her hands (the teacher wrestles her to the floor), and also with harsh words. It seems like Zaynab, being as stubborn as she is, has to learn everything the hard way. Living her own life depends only on her.
When it’s time for Zaynab to wrestle on stage (at a “real” battle) just like in her own personal life, she is too scared to try. As Zaynab tries to find her own way, she keeps looking for her “signature move” as a wrestler. What a poetic way to define one’s identity.
Alma and Zaynab have something going, but Zaynab is too afraid to come out as gay and keeps it all a secret. On the other hand, Alma, being used to a life of freedom and choice, refuses to live in the shadows.
Will Parveen open her mind? Will Alma give Zaynab another chance? Will Zaynab open her heart and find the courage to solve the conflict? All will be determined at the final battle!
Signature Move is a highly recommended, “feel good” movie. Kudos to Fawzia Mirza — who stars as Zaynab and also co-wrote the screenplay with Lisa Donato — as well as director Jennifer Reeder for keeping the whole cast and crew hopping. (4/5)
Top Photo: Fawzia Mirza and Molly Callinan spar in Signature Move.
Featured Photo & Bottom Photo: Fawzia Mirza with Sari Sanchez
Photo Credits: Ray Goldberg © A Loves Z LLC
Q: Does Signature Move pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?
For sure 🙂
Signature Move is all about women relating in multiple ways to other women!