Signature Move lies at the intersection of women’s wrestling, closeted homosexuality and the communities of Mexican and Pakistani diaspora in today’s Chicago. A portrait of people on the move, whether this be in punchy forward progression or reticent backward digression, this is an original story of what it is like to breach the unknown.
The film asks what it means to love another woman. Unusually, the central concern of the film lies in the struggle for intergenerational acceptance more than it does society’s tolerance towards homosexual relationships. Kinship bonds between mothers and their daughters’ girlfriends are more affecting than the relationship between Zaynab (Fawzi Mirza) and Alma (Sari Sanchez). Zaynab’s mother Parveen (Bollywood legend Shabana Azmi) steals the show. Brainwashed by heteronormative TV dramas, she searches for her daughter’s husband through binoculars but the world outside is, for her, frighteningly cosmopolitan, a melting pot with supermarkets in which you might mistakenly pick up a Mexican mango when you need a Pakistani one.
Signature Move follows in the footsteps of Desiree Akhavan’s 2015 migrant lesbian love story Appropriate Behaviour while, mercifully, leaving its idolatrous Brooklyn hipsters behind (Alma and Zaynah pay for their tequila shots with the money they earn from their real jobs which you see them actually doing). It’s nice to get a sense of continuity between these two deadpan comedies but, and this is probably due to budget constraints, the 80 minute run time doesn’t feel long enough to have granted the plot its necessary weight.
With memories of Appropriate Behaviour still fresh from film festivals past, it will be hard for Signature Move to make much headway; nonetheless, it’s nice to see another story of minority women overcoming adversity through sport (such as Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits). If only there was a bit more.
CAST: Fawzia Mirza, Shabana Azmi, Sari Sanchez, Charin Alvarez-Rosa
DIRECTOR: Jennifer Reefer
WRITERS: Fawzia Mirza, Lisa Donato
SYNOPSIS: A new romance with Alma forces Zaynab to confront her relationship with her recently widowed mother. In this coming-of-age Muslim melodrama, Zaynab copes by taking up Lucha-style wrestling.