A Suitable Girl

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
A Suitable Girl Movie Poster Image
Docu offers an inside look at arranged marriage in India.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Girls must give up their identities to enter into marriage arranged by their families. Many bright, educated women who have satisfying and lucrative jobs must give their work up if their husbands bar them from working.

Positive Role Models & Representations

One woman longs to marry but can't find a willing suitor. When she and her family finally find a man who wants her, she happily says yes and devotes herself to her new husband. Another woman who is highly educated and works in finance doesn't want to get married and give up her independence but her family pressures her and she relents. One woman who works in finance marries a nice man -- he's at least sorry to disappoint her when he tells her she can't have a job outside her household chores.

Violence

Young women and men, willing or not, are forced by tradition and family and social pressure to adhere to rules that require they marry. The women have the added burden of moving away from their families and giving up their working lives.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

Girls' families are greatly concerned with how much money prospective grooms make.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Suitable Girl is a 2017 documentary about the tradition of arranged marriage in India and how it can be both a fulfillment for girls and women and also a prison that holds them back. The film emphasizes the social pressure to make matches between strangers, the fact that girls must abandon their family and go live with the groom's family, and the mixed emotions that result -- parents are desperate to marry daughters off but are devastated when the girls leave them for the often far-off home of the groom's family.

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What's the story?

Arranged marriage is a thriving tradition in Hindi circles in India, and filmmakers Sarita Khurana and Smriti Munddra follow three prospective brides over four years during their families' search for a suitable groom. Many questions must be answered about the groom. How much does he make? Where does he live? Does he have degrees? Horoscopes and matchmakers are consulted. Little is said about the grooms' looks but good looks are valued in prospective brides, one of many ways in which women get the short end of this Indian marriage stick. Some of the women in A SUITABLE GIRL are eager to get married. Others would prefer not to, recognizing that modern Indian husbands often require their highly educated wives to give up successful careers for housework and childcare. For this reason, both Ritu and Amriti, educated women working in finance, have turned down many prospective grooms presented by their families. Ritu's mother is a matchmaker who often feels frustrated and inadequate regarding her daughter's continuing single status. Amriti dutifully accepts a husband and, like all Indian brides, must leave her own family behind to move to wherever the groom lives, no matter how far. Moving day is a tearful affair as young women are wrenched from their families. Ritu grudgingly relocates to Dubai, but at least her enlightened husband is offering a chauffeur, servants, and a job at his financial services firm. Amriti is relegated to cooking and housekeeping, and while she professes to like her husband, her disappointment is clear. On the other hand, Dipti, a sweet, far simpler soul, can't wait to marry and is constantly disappointed when arrangements fall through with prospective grooms. Her father, a portly fellow, believes Dipti's weight might be to blame for the lack of suitors. It's understood, as dictated by Indian men, that for wives, "a job is good to have to pass the time," but women who do work outside the home are expected to come directly home after work and never have too many friends or independent lives. One husband's traditional dad forbids the new wife to wear western clothes. The brides wed and then sadly depart, leaving families and the only life they've ever known behind.

Is it any good?

This documentary wisely tells its absorbing story without narration. The directors allow the audience to draw its own conclusions from A Suitable Girl about the fairness or unfairness of this male-dominated marriage model. Ritu's fiancé says right in front of Ritu that he sees no need for marriage and would be happy to remain single but that he must succumb to pressure from his family to adhere to tradition. As he coldly explains his views, Ritu sits next to him blankly. We are left to imagine her hurt since she doesn't want to marry him, either.

As families use laptops and cell phones to find pictures and stats of possible husbands, the irony of using advanced technology to foster an ancient culture is clear. It seems to be part of human nature to embrace modernity at the same time as clinging to familiar traditions.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about A Suitable Girl and what it would be like to agree to marry someone based on only one meeting. What do you think the origins of arranged marriage are? How did arranged marriages help build economic stability in places where it's still the prevailing practice?

  • Do you think American courtship is a better way to find marriage partners? Why or why not?

  • Do you think people who marry for love have happier, better, or more long-lasting marriages than those who enter into arrangements? Why or why not?

Movie details

For kids who love documentaries

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