Sujata Day’s emotional ‘Definition Please’ debuts on Netflix

I’ve at all times beloved a very good existential indie.

Everybody wants feel-good films, blockbusters, and even over-the-top awards bait, however a top-notch impartial film hurts and heals you with its verisimilitude, even should you solely watch it as soon as and by no means come again. 

Netflix’s Definition Please, written and directed by Sujata Day and produced by Ava Duvernay’s Array, scratches that indie itch with the story of 1 household’s quiet struggling, unstable relationships, and sluggish however regular rebuilding.

Day additionally stars as Monica, a former spelling bee winner, who by no means fairly lived as much as her champion standing — a minimum of not within the eyes of these round her. She returns to her small Pennsylvania hometown to handle mom Jaya (Anna Khaja), whereas her brother Sonny (Ritesh Rajan) comes house for his or her father’s demise anniversary. 


A woman sits on the floor with her adult children as they all smile and talk.

Completely satisfied Bhai Phota to Netflix solely.
Credit score: ARRAY

Like a variety of right this moment’s crop of movies and TV by rising South Asian American expertise, Definition Please is extra considering tradition as a backdrop, not a battle. A lot of the forged and plenty of cultural references are Indian, however that is one a part of Monica’s identification that she does not have to parse. Specificities just like the board recreation Carrom, Patel Brothers grocery, or a harmonium efficiency will immerse reasonably than alienate. Bengalis within the viewers even get the deal with of seeing bhai phota on display screen, contextualized however not overexplained for the uninitiated.

As such, Definition Please suits seamlessly into the esteemed indie movie household the place burned-out adults return house to work by way of previous trauma. It is extra like Younger Grownup or Lady Most Doubtless than American Desi, and to its profit. Day spends time on the quiet moments in Monica’s life, on lonely introspection and sharing a mattress together with her mom or sibling tomfoolery with Sonny. The brother-sister relationship pops off the display screen as we unravel his psychological well being historical past. Rajan skillfully strikes between playfully manic and virtually catatonically depressed, imbuing the movie’s last act with dread and frustration. 

An adult brother and sister lay in the grass - a still from

Ritesh Rajan and Sujata Day’s sibling bond is without doubt one of the strongest elements of “Definition Please” on Netflix.
Credit score: ARRAY

The household dynamic and story on the core of Definition Please are so sturdy that the movie does not want a variety of its equipment. Typically, when Monica sees individuals — normally engaging males — the display screen explodes with music, colour, and slow-motion as she spells out a related phrase (“callipygian” for somebody with a pleasant butt). It is a enjoyable system and cheeky spelling-themed gimmick, nevertheless it’s employed simply sporadically sufficient to be jarring each time. Even the secondary characters really feel a bit redundant. Pleasant although it’s to see Lizzie McGuire’s Lalaine on display screen once more, she will get little characterization as Monica’s finest pal, as does Jake Choi, who performs a love curiosity that fully disappears for big swathes of the movie.

Becoming a member of the lineup of formidable Hollywood multi-hyphenates behind and in entrance of the digicam — together with her pal and mentor Issa Rae — Sujata Day makes carrying a number of hats look simple. Day’s imprint is on every bit of the movie, from elevating cash to creating it to sending out her personal publicity emails. She nails the movie’s construction and pacing, daring to experiment with the spelling bee premise even when it might fade into the background. Make no mistake: There’s a cohesive, tangible, and highly effective pressure behind Definition Please, and he or she’s simply getting began.

Definition Please is now streaming on Netflix.

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