What first seems like a predictable plot is quickly proven otherwise, bolstered by strong performances from nearly the entire cast. BRICK LANE (which is based on the same-named novel by Monica Ali) manages to take on ambitious topics -- love, poverty, feminism, immigration, even terrorism -- and transform them into an evocative, intimate viewing experience. Chatterjee does much with little: Nazneen doesn't have that many lines, but when she has something to say, it's potent. Just the look on her face when she's remembering a rare moment of bliss speaks volumes.
That said, the film takes a meandering route to explore what love means -- and what being a mother entails -- and a few spots don't ring true, starting with the stereotypical portrayal of a usurer. And in the end, when Nazneen appears to finally realize whom she loves, and how, the revelation is hollow. (It doesn't help that the film sets up the man she loves as a fairly pitiful, even laughable, character.) And although theoretically Nazneen's sister is a major character, because she's seen only in flashes, in no time, she almost seems unnecessary. And she's definitely not.