Iram Haq’s first feature, I Am Yours, followed a young single mother whose appetite for self-destruction put her at risk and set her against her family and the rest of society. For her second film, What Will People Say, Haq looks at a teenager whose choices have been radically curtailed by those who claim to love her best.
As the film opens, Nisha (Maria Mozhdah) is balancing two separate lives, slipping out and enjoying the Oslo nightlife with her high-school friends while playing the dutiful daughter at home with her doting but traditional Pakistani migrant father (Adil Hussain) and seemingly uninterested mother. When Nisha’s deception is discovered, her father, egged on by his wife and the rest of their social circle, takes drastic action to protect his daughter from the pitfalls of life in the West.
Other films have dealt with characters who feel pulled between the rules of the old country and the pleasures of the new, but few have reached the level of empathy and understanding Haq does. The character of Nisha’s father in particular is crucial to the film’s success. Instead of a single-minded villain, Haq and Hussain create a man who is torn apart by the choices he makes, unable to accept the harsh measures those around him insist on, but crushed by social disapproval and terrified of what he thinks his daughter is becoming. Haq’s skilful and subtle touch in both direction and writing leaves us on edge and touchingly foregrounds her subjects’ turmoil and confusion.