Will All We Imagine as Light win the Palme d’Or?

All We Imagine as Light is a delicate triple portrait of women who have devoted their lives to helping others, but have received precious little in return in terms of money, status or freedom. Things would be different if they were men: the film’s feminist theme is established in the amusing introductory scenes, in which an elderly patient complains to Prabha that the ghost of her late husband keeps bothering her when she’s trying to watch television, and Anu slips a bottle of contraceptive pills to a 25-year-old woman who already has three children.

But Kapadia doesn’t resort to polemic, nor does she try to force the narrative into tragedy or farce. In her clear, lyrical way, she simply tells the bittersweet stories of three friends who want nothing more than to be allowed to carry on as they are. All We Imagine as Light is specific in its detailing of life as a woman in today’s Mumbai, but this Indian-French co-production also has the feel of an American or European indie comedy drama. It is universal and emotional enough to hypnotise anyone who has been alone in a city, or been spellbound by a film on the subject.

It’s also noteworthy for being the first Indian film from a female director ever to be in the main Competition strand at Cannes. Given that the Competition jury is chaired by Greta Gerwig, and this warm, female-led film resembles her own work in certain ways, All We Imagine as Light could well be a winner when the Festival’s prizes are announced on Saturday evening. But whether Kapadia takes home a trophy or not, All We Imagine as Light is bound to be one of those international films that break out of the art-house festival circuit and into cinemas and hearts everywhere.

★★★★★

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