IN FLAMES (2023) Review by Steve Kirkham

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IN FLAMES (2023)

4 stars
Blue Finch Film Releasing. In cinemas – out now

IN FLAMES is a Pakistani-Canadian psychological horror which premiered at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and was Pakistan’s entry for Best International Feature Film at the 2024 Academy Awards.

This is a compellingly told tale, set in contemporary Pakistan, which explores a society where women are still treated poorly by often leery, perverse and misogynistic men.

Fariha (Bakhtawar Mazhar) has already lost her abusive husband and has been bringing up two children, 25 year old Mariam (Ramesha Nawal), who is studying to be a doctor and her much younger brother Bilal (Jibraan Khan), in their cramped apartment. When Fariha’s father dies they are faced with financial peril – until that is sleazy Uncle Nasir (Adnan Shah) appears out the woodwork, promising to pay off all their debts. But at what price? Mariam is rightly suspicious and implores her mother not to sign anything.

Mariam starts a new relationship with fellow student Asad (Omar Javaid), who has come from Canada, but she keeps it secret from her Mum. However, tragedy will soon strike… as things progress strange things start to happen and Mariam begins to see ghosts – even from beyond the grave men are treating her badly! But are the apparitions real or in her mind?

The feature directorial debut of Zarrar Kahn (who also penned the script) this is a slow burn drama with horror overtones – more creepy than anything else – which explores the pervasive attitude towards women in a society that still treats them like second class citizens. The film holds the interest mainly due to the strong central performance by Nawal as Mariam.

Steve Kirkham