Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism
Anar (Iveel Mashbat) and Kassy (Jana Miley) have been married for a while. Things have turned a little stale, unfortunately. When Kassy, an actress, gets invited on a date with a director (Roy Oraschin), she accepts, hoping to be cast in his movie. Meanwhile Anar, a bartender, gets a visit from Olivia (Charlette Rozzell) at his bar. She obviously has something to tell him. Both these events may push Anar and Kassy’s marriage over the brink.
Beloved is a melancholic look at a marriage falling apart that could have been a little more political, but definitely captures the sadness of a long drawn-out good-bye.
Beloved is at its best when portraying distances and closeness between people, especially the coldness between Kassy and Anar. The opening of the film absolutely nails the feeling of a couple that has been together for ages and is at once, completely comfortable with each other, and yet doesn’t really have anything to say to each other anymore. Later on, there is also a montage where Kassy’s relationship with the director is summarized that manages to go from love to distance in the space of a minute or so.
But it also captures the moments when Kassy and Anar (or Anar and Olivia) have a genuine connection with each other. And those moments make us understand what Kassy and Anar have lost in the years of their marriage, making the distance between them even more poignant, but also giving us a sense of closure. It’s bittersweet and beautiful.
Being married is hard, and it is not made easier by the fact that Anar and Kassy are an interracial couple. The film hints at this – Kassy listening to a radio program that espouses the racist theory that people should just marry within their “cultures” to keep them alive. Anar’s friend insisting that all of his problems stem from the fact that he married a white woman and not a Mongolian like him. And finally, both Kassy and Anar both acknowledging how difficult it was for them to fit into the respective in-law families. But for me, I would have liked a bit more engagement with that part of the marital problems. I do think that what Mashbat was going for is “maybe Kassy and Anar would have had more of a chance without the addition of that pressure” but with the text the film gives us, one may as well arrive at the conclusion that interracial couples are doomed to fail, sad as it may be.
In any case, Beloved is not only a sensitive film about a sad topic, it also shows how much Mashbat has grown as a filmmaker since his debut In the Land of Lost Angels. It’s definitely a strong sign of life from the USAmerican indie cinema, done with a lot of heart and none of the irony and pretentiousness that dominates indie movies by white dudes. I’m here for that.
Summarizing: really nice.