The Appropriate response to Appropriate Behaviour

Grainne Pearson Cockrill

In the evening of the 28th of May I walked over to my local Broadway cinema to take part in Reel Equality’s showing of a feminist indie film Appropriate Behaviour which was written, directed and starring the influential Desiree Akhavan.

After a brief introduction of the film, Reel Equality explained that they were the celebratory arm of Equation (a Nottingham-based charity aiming to put an end to domestic violence against women in the city). As part of this outfit’s work, they are trying to put an end to the unhealthy attitudes towards women which mainstream cinema promotes by spotlighting good female-friendly films instead.

Well, from start to finish Appropriate Behaviour was both emotional and hilarious with plenty of dry humour and wit. The film recounts the story of Shiran, a bisexual American-Persian woman who is trying to gain control of her life (even if it is by several awkward dates and sexual encounters). These bumpy events follow her break-up with long term girlfriend Maxine (Rebecca Henderson), who could no longer put up with Shiran hiding her relationship from her traditional Iranian family. But the uneasy comedy of the socially anxious yet extroverted, artistic Shiran is definitely something that many women will be able to relate to.

The light music and highdefinition film also really gave a quick yet moderate pace to the movie. Whilst the interesting skills of editor Sara Shaw and cinematographer Chris Teague meant that Appropriate Behaviour remained attention-grabbing and easy to follow throughout, despite numerous quirky flash backs and flash forwards. In fact, these time-hops helped us puzzle together why Shiran and Maxine broke up as well as how their relationship started.

They also gave a great insight into the difficulties many modern Persian women can face when living in such a ‘wild and free’ feministic and openly gay scene as Brooklyn. This leads Shiran to experience many competing tensions with her traditional roots and parents (Anh Duong and Hooman Majd), as well as with her brother, Ali (Arian Moayed). Ali is also very much Shiran’s opposite number: he’s getting married to a perfectly chosen wife and is a talented Iranian plastic surgeon – a parent’s dream child, right?

Well as a result, Shiran’s family refuse to listen to her, and her girlfriend doesn’t listen to her either. Even the 6 year olds in her young filmmakers class don’t listen to her, whilst her best friend Crystal (Halley Feiffer) is only interested in catching men’s eye, so the character has quite a wall of frustration to overcome! But the mainly female cast was definitely refreshing for us as viewers.

After all, such a generous amount of female three-dimensional characters with a personality are rarely seen nowadays, and this film definitely has several! They’re characters with real universal appeal too, so this film has been a staunch favourite at festivals like Sundance, and the BFI London and Flare Film Festivals. I would therefore happily suggest this film to anyone who enjoys a great comedy where you can really follow a relationship’s ups and downs, and it’s also nice to spend some time in Brooklyn’s vibrant creative community. So it was yet another great pick by Reel Equality!