out of Five
Running time: 117
The shifting of Hardy's novel to modern day India is an inspired idea and the film is often beautiful to look at, but it's ultimately badly let down by a frustrating script, sluggish direction and yet another wooden performance from Freida Pinto.
What's it all about?
Based on Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Trishna is director Michael Winterbottom's third Thomas Hardy adaptation, after 1996's Jude (Jude the Obscure) and 2000's The Claim (The Mayor of Casterbridge). Set in contemporary India, it stars Freida Pinto as naïve, poverty-stricken country girl Trishna, who begins a relationship with wealthy Londoner and aspiring film producer Jay (Riz Ahmed), after he sees her dancing for tourists at one of his father's hotels in Jaipur.
Eventually, Jay persuades Trishna to move with him to Mumbai, where he hopes to pursue his film career. However, after their relationship hits a rough patch, Jay becomes increasingly distant and cruel, pushing Trishna into a desperate situation.
Transposing the action of the novel to modern day India is an inspired idea that cleverly achieves the contrast between rural innocence and worldly experience that's present in Hardy's novel. In addition, the film is beautifully shot, courtesy of Marcel Zyskind's colourful cinematography, while Winterbottom displays a strong feel for the vibrancy of Indian life.
However, the film is badly let down by both the script and the performances. The main problem is that Freida Pinto is too bland and wooden an actress to bring Trishna to life; as a result, she's infuriatingly passive throughout and it's impossible to engage with her on an emotional level, not least because there's no chemistry between the two leads. Similarly, Riz Ahmed has flashes of charm (he does a delightful Humphrey Bogart impression), but he's poorly served by a script that requires him to essentially be two different people, a consequence of the baffling decision to merge the characters of Angel Clare and Alec D'Urberville.
On top of that, the film's pace slows to a painful crawl towards the end, with long, dull stretches where nothing is happening (the film could easily have been a good 15 minutes shorter). It also has a shocking, non-Hardy themed ending that doesn't really work, since it seems to come out of nowhere.
Trishna is a frustrating adaptation that ultimately fails to satisfy, thanks to a misguided script, some serious pacing issues and a lifeless performance from Freida Pinto.