Kawenniióhstha (Devery Jacobs) begins her college career far from home. After being raised in a Mohawk community, she wants to meet the Iranian father she has never known. As she attends school and gains confidence as a writer, she meets Malai (Priya Guns), the daughter of a Tamil immigrant. As Malai’s attempts to reconnect with her ailing father, she faces considerable pressure from her professors and brother about her future academic career. As Kawenniióhstha and Malai grow closer, they reckon with the shadow of their family legacies.
Jacobs and Guns’s performances each provide the actresses with material that showcases more subtle performances. While emotion courses through the dialogue, the restraint shown by different characters speaks to a more authentic experience. This also makes the moments where a character displays vulnerability even more impactful.
As their relationship evolves, Nayani evokes dream-like qualities in the visuals and the musical score. The use of blues, reds, and purples helps set an otherworldly feeling as the women begin to fall for each other. The use of bisexual lighting might have been a little on the nose, yet This Place grips the audience during these sequences. With a gorgeous score accompanying the visuals, there seemed to be undeniable homages to Barry Jenkins.
Nayani establishes herself as director to watch with This Place’s essential themes. One of the most diverse features of the year, both in terms of perspective and on-screen talent, This Place forces the audience to question their own experience growing up. However, the small screenplay issues pile up, hurting the film over its runtime. With an essential story, the film sneaks up on you as an emotional and rewarding experience.
This Place screened at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, which runs September 8-18.