I never pictured spousal abuse happening inside a crowded Toronto house while the husband’s parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew sit stone-faced in front of the TV and listen to him beat up his wife in the next room. Without Deepa Mehta’s new movie, "Heaven on Earth," I would never have seen this and I would never have understood how each of these people could justify the rightness of a man beating up his wife, or at least the rightness of their not interfering.
The movie shows the isolation and pressure that a young woman can experience when she leaves her family in India and comes to Canada to take part in an arranged marriage and, for better or worse (in this case worse), is absorbed into her husband's family and cut off from her family back in India. When she does manage to connect by phone her grown brother pushes her to stick it out so that that her new family will sponsor him (her brother) to come to Canada. We also see the isolation of the husband who must support his aging parents, as well as his sister’s family (his brother-in-law can't find work and his sister has a minimum wage job), and must also do the paperwork and find the money to bring his own brother over from India.
Thought-provoking material (and I have been thinking and talking about it) and the perfect setup for a story, but then it was over. It wasn’t enough to see the new bride resorting to a fantasy world to escape her unbearable circumstances—I wanted the story to go somewhere so I could go there too.