Shonali Bose & Nilesh Maniyar's Margarita, With A Straw is a one-of-a-kind coming of age story focusing on Laila, a young romantic whose general exuberance seems undeterred by cerebral palsy, which has condemned to her to a wheelchair. When Laila finds herself accepted into New York Universities' creative arts program, she decides to leave her home in India, setting off into the unknown. Margarita With A Straw is a story of self discovery, a film that challenges societies pre-defined notion of normality in documenting a young woman's attempt to find herself. Suffering from cerebral palsy, Laila is a character who was never capable of living what we consider "a normal life", and one of the film's stronger elements is how it captures the toll this type of subtle resentment can have on the psyche of an individual who is different, with Laila wanting nothing more than to be treated just like everyone else. One of the first things that jumps out about Margarita With A Straw is the captivating central performance by Kalki Koechlin who completely embodies this sense of wonder and intrigue this young character faces as she steps out into the world on her own. Her performance of a character suffering from cerebral palsy feels nuanced and accurate, capturing Laila's exuberance but also fragility, specifically sexually, as she is a character simply trying to find and understand her own wants, needs, and desires. While Margarita With A Straw is one of the more emotionally tender films I've seen in awhile, the film never seems to emotional pander to the audience, never seeking sentimentality, showing only a nerve for capturing the struggles of a character attempting to live a "normal" life. One of the core relationships of the film is centered around Laila's parents, specifically her mother, a woman who loves her daughter very much but is wary of her well-being given her condition, but is doing her best to embrace her daughter's independence. As a parent, she is fearful and anxious about her daughter finding her place in this world, knowing Laila's naivety could lead her to stumble. One of these main points of naivety revolves around sexuality, with Laila being a character who has never been embraced or viewed in that light. It's her through her sexual exploration that the film exhibits the importance of independence and self-discovery, with Laila entering into both a relationship with a young, blind-woman in NYC, as well as having a sexual escade with one of her male classmates. Laila's specific gender preference is vague but thats not the point, as the film is more focuses on the importance of Laila being able to discover that herself through her individiuality, not what by what society standards dictate as normal. A story of self-discovery, Margarita With A Straw is a film that loudly criticizes the ideal of normality in society, exposing how what is "normal" is dictated by the majority, expressing how discovering ones own individuality is essential to being comfortable and happy in your own skin.
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