On the way home after a party fight, Aysha (Jason Patel) explains to Luke (Ben Hardy) the steamy love triangle that started the fight in the first place. It sounds complicated, Luke notes, but Aysha replies that it’s actually quite simple: “Everyone only wants what they can’t have.”

Despite her casual delivery, the statement seems to hang in the air between them. Because at this point, both Luke and Aysha already somewhat know what they want. You just have to allow yourself to do it. unicorns traces both of their paths to self-acceptance with empathy, curiosity, and a refreshing disregard for limiting labels.


The bottom line: A poignant love story that goes beyond mere labels.

What stands between the central couple is not a lack of desire, but a clash of identities. Luke is a straight, white, single father from Essex who makes a modest living as a mechanic. Aysha is a professional drag queen from Manchester who hides her true self from her conservative Indian Muslim family. The two meet by chance when Luke stumbles into a London nightclub where Aysha is performing, and sparks fly until Luke realizes that Aysha is not a cisgender woman.

However, when Aysha needs a ride to a gig a few days later, she asks Luke to drive her for money. Both need the money – and both are reluctant to give up the attraction that originally brought them together – and agree to turn the favor into a regular arrangement.

Directors Sally El Hoseini (who directed last year’s TIFF opener “The Swimmers”) and James Krishna Floyd (the latter also wrote the screenplay) sketch out Aysha and Luke’s very different worlds through careful, well-worn detail. In Luke’s case there is gray austerity, cloudy skies, dirty fingernails and bulky concrete apartments. In contrast, Aysha wears sparkly dresses, colorful makeup and flashing club lights. Macho Luke looks just as out of place among Aysha’s souped-up friends as she does when she stands in stilettos in the garage where Luke works with his father (Grant Davis). But somehow they both feel equally comfortable in his car under the glow of streetlights and gas stations, and on these nighttime trips a deeper bond begins to develop.

While the premise may seem a bit contrived at first, any awkwardness melts away as the walls between Luke and Aysha do. There was an attraction between them from the start, but unicorns builds trust and friendship between them over time. The camera follows their increasingly relaxed body language as they navigate the party scene together, or lingers on their smiles as they talk around the clock and laugh at nothing at all.

At the beginning, the film very subtly focuses on Luke’s experience – although they both have roughly the same amount of time on screen throughout, it is Luke with whom the film begins, whose outsider perspective we follow in Aysha’s realm and whose eyes we observe How we secretly look at her from the street for a long time, her legs stretched out next to him. But just as Aysha’s journey of self-discovery risks being reduced to a manic pixie dream girl or a damsel in distress, the balance is reversed in the second hour as she confronts her own identity crisis.

Between their evenings together, unicorns follows Aysha and Luke in their separate lives. After breaking up with his girlfriend and the death of his mother, Luke finds it difficult to balance work and fatherhood. While Luke bristles at every hint of pity – “I don’t need a damn support system,” he snaps at a well-meaning school teacher – Hardy carries with him an air of melancholy that makes it clear how exhausted he is by it all, and a gentleness that which belies his tough exterior.

Aysha, for her part, spends her daytime hours outside of costume as Ashiq, working at the makeup counter of a drugstore. Here comes his brother Hammad (Michael Karim) to warn him that “people in Manchester say things about you.” What things remain unsaid, however, we can guess; At one point, Aysha darkly remarks to Luke that for closeted South Asian drag queens like her, “there are only ever two options: forced marriage abroad or jumping off a cliff.” On the journey home, Ashiq is warm with his mother (Nisha Nayar). , eagerly asking him if he has a new girlfriend, and pissed off with his father (Ravin J. Ganatra), who sees Ashiq as more of a dutiful son than he does by getting to know that son in his own way. Aysha may be a performer in every sense of the word, but Patel’s body language makes it clear that it is Ashiq who is playing the lead.

Roughly, unicorns follows a fairly straightforward romantic narrative path: two people meet, fall in love, and then face obstacles before deciding whether or not to finally be together. And it’s easy to imagine a more conventional version of this story that plays out in bolder terms, fetishizing the obvious differences between the two characters in order to arrive at a heavy-handed moral about the power of acceptance or something. unicornsLuckily, he’s more interested in crossing lines than defining them. Although both leads are made to reconsider who they really are and what they really want, there is no attempt to limit Luke’s sexuality or Aysha’s gender with labels. Nor is the film particularly interested in drawing sweeping conclusions about the communities to which everyone belongs—though its matter-of-fact statements about the everyday stresses of working-class life or the violent hostility faced by gays and transsexuals are statements in themselves.

All of this is just context for the real point of the drama, which is this specific connection between these specific people. That it’s told with patience, compassion and an appreciation for the messiness of real life. Nothing resolves properly unicorns. Some of the challenges the characters face are eliminated; others change shape or remain stubbornly standing. We end the film not knowing what has become of certain supporting characters or how certain relationships will develop.

What we understand is the undeniable bond between two people who truly see and love each other as they are, and who together become the best and truest versions of themselves. In a way, it’s a small story – but one that resonates unicorns delicate hands, feels more than enough.

Source : www.hollywoodreporter.com

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