By: Amanda Guarragi
One of the most beautiful aspects of living in Toronto is that the city has become a melting pot of different cultures and communities. In V.T. Nayani’s feature debut This Place she explores a queer love story about two young women — one Iranian and Kanienʼkehá꞉ka, the other Tamil — living in Toronto and dealing with difficult family legacies. Kawenniióhstha (Devery Jacobs) and Malai (Priya Guns) both have their family issues, but all that fades away when they find each other. Their relationship begins in a rather unconventional way and then it begins to flourish naturally as if they’ve known each other for years.
Kawenniióhstha has been struggling with her identity under the watch of her mother. She doesn’t know who her father is and has been trying to find out who she is. There comes a time in every young woman’s life when they feel the need to branch out and stop trying to be someone their parents want them to be. Kawenniióhstha can resonate with young women who feel as if they’ve been held back by their parents because of how strict they’ve been. In this film, Nayani has her venture out into the city and has her breathe in the open space. Once she gets a taste of freedom, she begins to explore the city and what the world has to offer her. She feels like she can make her own decisions and live for herself. She has her own space and the ability to make her own mistakes to help her grow.
Once Kawenniióhstha meets Malai at a local laundromat, sparks instantly fly between them. Malai has her struggles; she contemplates what to do after university and needs to decide because her brother has given up his aspirations to provide for her. Just as she is trying to move forward with her decisions she finds out that her father, after years of alcohol abuse is in the hospital. With the use of flashbacks, Nayani shows the impact both fathers made on Kawenniióhstha and Malai early on in their lives. She also forms the same narrative of choosing a partner over their heritage and how that pans out for some people. Love is such an important part of everyone’s relationships and it’s also important to compromise especially when it comes to family.
This Place explores the pain and the beauty of finding love when two people are still trying to find themselves. Kawenniióhstha and Malai have beautiful moments together that feel so intimate. It feels as if we are looking in on such a private moment because of their tender direction by Nayani. It is a universal story that will resonate with anyone who has felt those same sparks when meeting someone for the first time. For those who have felt restricted by their parents for most of their adolescent life, this is a film where you will be able to breathe with Kawenniióhstha and feel relief. Even though obstacles come between their love story, the power of unity in this place, Toronto, makes the relationship stronger.