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Trishna played yesterday at the ongoing BFI London Film Festival, and the first reviews are in! To say that they’re mixed is an understatement, with some viewers loving it – especially Freida Pinto and Riz Ahmed’s performances – and others didn’t care for the movie at all. I’ve featured some snippets of the reviews below, click on the links for full versions. I’ll update this post with more as they get published. Keep checking back!
“There is very little straightforwardly scripted dialogue. Characters’ actions, positions, tell us everything. Jay is rarely shown other than supine on a chair or bed, waiting for his dinner to be served to him. Trishna seems to turn within herself, visibly shrinking as the film progresses, trapped in her material dependence on Jay and her shame at her sexual history. I also loved how writer-director Michael Winterbottom didn’t feel the need to show Trishna’s accusers as a gaggle of villagers or hotel workers scandalised by her situation. Her emotional distress, her shame, her sense of betrayal and entrapment, is all in her own mind, and expressed by Freida Pinto in a quiet, sensitive performance.“
“Winterbottom’s script was apparently improvised in part. This allows for a spontaneous feel; but it fails to nail some of the plot’s complexity. The casting is a problem, too: Ahmed (as we know from Four Lions) is an immensely appealing actor, low-key but self-possessed. Yet he struggles to convey Jay’s shift from indulged, affable nice guy to icily cruel lover.
As for Pinto, her problems go deeper. Her looks make her an easy casting choice, but hers is an aristocratic beauty: she doesn’t look cut out for manual labour, or even waiting tables. And she still lacks the acting experiences to tease out the nuances in Trishna’s passive demeanour.”
David Gritten, Telegraph
“Both of its main characters, a poor working woman who needs to provide for her family and the rich son a hotel owner who falls in love with her, are so underdeveloped that their actions as the film progresses are confusing and extremely vague. The former, moreover, terribly performed by Freida Pinto, frustratingly appears to let herself be pushed over by anyone and everyone around her because of this same inability for Winterbottom to really explain his protagonist.”
Daniel Sarath, Napier’s News
“The most obvious roadblock is the casting. Ahmed is typically excellent, charming and likable at first, something of a Prince Charming, but with a controlling element in his persona which becomes more and more prominent as time goes on. Unfortunately, his counterpart can’t match him. Tess is always a tricky role—she’s a passive character, pushed through a selection of suffering like a von Trier protagonist, so it needs a really strong actress to make it work. Pinto is, clearly, one of the most beautiful women in the world, and maybe the only actress who could have got the film financed, but she’s also yet to demonstrate that she’s got any real screen presence; even in the most dramatic scenes, she virtually fades into the wallpaper. In her hands, Trishna is such an opaque blank, so devoid of personality, that it’s hard to care much what happens to her one way or the other.
But, in all fairness, Winterbotttom doesn’t give her very much to work with. For a start, while his eye for modern-day India is more authentic and less flashy than Danny Boyle‘s in ‘Slumdog,’ he doesn’t really set up the world that well. It’s a major plot point that even in this day and age, a relationship between Trishna and Jay would be frowned up on in Rajasthan, not in Bombay, but it’s not made clear until late in the film, and never really explained why, which means that the stakes feel minimal throughout.”
Oliver Lyttelton, The Playlist
“Pinto is superb; however, the same can’t be said for the rest of the cast – who appear wooden and awkward within their roles; especially Ahmed, who is by far the weakest link.”
Patrick Gamble, Cine Vue