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Film / I Can't Think Straight

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A semi-autobiographical 2008 lesbian romantic film by Shamim Sarif, starring Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth.

In the upper echelons of traditional Middle Eastern society, Reema and Omar prepare for the marriage of their daughter Tala. But back at work in London, Tala encounters Leyla, a young British Indian woman who is dating Tala's best friend Ali. Tala sees something unique in the artless, clumsy, sensitive Leyla who secretly works to become a writer. And Tala's forthright challenges to Leyla's beliefs begins a journey of self-awareness for Leyla. As the women fall in love, Tala's own sense of duty and cultural restraint cause her to pull away from Leyla and fly back to Jordan where the preparations for an ostentatious wedding are well under way.

As family members descend and the wedding day approaches, the pressure mounts until Tala finally cracks and extricates herself. Back in London, Leyla is heartbroken but learns to break free of her own self-doubt and her mother's expectations, ditching Ali and being honest with her parents about her sexuality. When Ali and Leyla's feisty sister Yasmin help throw Tala and Leyla together again, Tala finds that her own preconceptions of what love can be is the final hurdle she must jump to win Leyla back.

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • All Lesbians Want Kids: The film ends with Tala telling Leyla they must have kids. She seems to want this primarily as a means of compromising with her family, who are not 100% happy with her being gay. The real women this is based on had two sons.
  • Amicable Exes: What Leyla and Ali become when she outs herself, with Ali even willing to hook her up with Tala.
  • Coming-Out Story: Tala and Leyla both undergo them after coming to terms with their orientations. Leyla first tells her parents, and this later inspired Tala to do the same. Interestingly, in both cases it's their mothers which are most upset at the news. Leyla's father accepts this, and Tala's at least reacts more calmly.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • "Amina" at the book signing is Shamim Sarif.
    • One of the books on Leyla's shelf is by Shamim Sarif.
    • Leyla's comment about how "Amina" is such an interesting name is a reference to Sheth's character in The World Unseen.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Leyla. She slams her hand in a laundry hamper while talking to Tala in a country club locker room, sparking one of their first intimate moments when Tala takes her hand to see if she hurt herself. Near the end, Tala jokes that she came out to her parents by saying that she was in love with a “beautiful, intelligent, talented, clumsy woman.”
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: A significant plot point, as Tala's family is highly traditional. Though less so, Leyla's mother also gets quite upset at hearing she's a lesbian, saying it's sinful.
  • First Girl Wins: Tala. After Tala and Leyla split up, Leyla starts dating Jennifer. However after she finds out Tala did not get married and came out to her parents they get back together.
  • Gayngst: Oh hell yes. Both Leyla and Tala express anxiety about their lesbianism, mostly spurred by fear that it won’t be accepted. Tala has run through four fiancés trying to deny her sexuality and tells Leyla that “this isn’t a way to live” after Their First Time. Leyla is comparatively less gayngsty and accepts herself quickly after her affair with Tala, but she still admits to hoping her instincts were wrong when she first started to suspect that she might be gay. After her mother tells her she’ll burn in hell for the sin, she turns to her father in tears and tells him that if she could change it, she would, but she knows she can’t.
  • Happy Ending: Leyla comes out to her parents and gets a sweet publishing deal; Tala comes out to her parents and shows up at Leyla’s signing to tell her. With the conflict of Tala wanting to stay closeted out of the way, Leyla is immediately down to rekindle their relationship.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Lamia, in a stark contrast to Yasmin. She's absolutely in denial that Uncle Ramzi and Sami are gay, and when she sees how close Leyla and Tala are, she does everything in her power to make sure her sister gets married to Hani. And in the end, she has a breakdown when her sister comes out of the closet and elects to stay with Leyla.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Averted with Tala, who may not believe in God (she's unclear) but is a nice person. It appears that her main beef, regardless of what she believes herself, is the negative aspects of organized religion.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Tala and Leyla both qualify, as they present themselves in traditionally feminine ways. Of course, it's expected since they begin as not "out" even to themselves and come from traditional cultures..
  • The Matchmaker: Yasmin and Ali become this for Tala and Leyla.
  • Mating Dance: Leyla and Tala’s Unresolved Sexual Tension resolves itself after Tala shows Leyla how to do a Jordanian dance that involves a lot of hip action and lingering touches.
  • Open-Minded Parent:
    • Leyla's father is this, accepting his daughter's homosexuality and stopping his wife from condemning her. Leyla's mother takes a while to come around, but she eventually does, and cries when Leyla's about to move out.
    • Tala's dad might be this; it's never stated that he's cool with his daughter being gay, but he is the one trying to calm his wife down from her furious reaction to Tala's coming out. He certainly isn't down with the threats to cut Tala off.
  • Pair the Spares: It's implied at the end that Yasmin ends up with Ali.
  • Queer Romance: A British romantic comedy about a young Indian woman who falls in love with a rich Palestinian heiress.
  • Rich Bitch: Reema, Tala's mother, is a racist, homophobic bitch. She's also a hypocrite, constantly railing about how racist the Israelis are. Lamia also has shades of this.
  • Runaway Bride: Tala is a serial Runaway Bride, having a history of dating whatever young successful man that her parents would approve of only to break it off once the wedding is near. At the start of the movie she is on fiance number four, and her relatives are placing bets on whether she breaks it off before or after the engagement dinner. Turns out she has a really good reason for her behavior (it's all there in the title).
  • Running Gag: Reema's maid keeps spitting in her mistress' drinks, but Reema keeps handing said drinks over to other people. After Tala comes out, Reema is so shocked that she demands a drink. The maid is ecstatic.
  • Title Drop: Yasmin wears a T-Shirt that says "I Can't Think Straight" after her sister Leyla comes out to her parents.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Pretty much the entire movie's plot is explained here.
  • Transparent Closet: Leyla, as noted by Yasmin as she looks over her collection of k.d. lang CDs and lesbian-themed books. Yasmin also brings up Leyla's dissatisfaction with Ali. Tala is also this to some degree, as Lamia noted how close the two girls were and attempted to put a stop to it. She's also previously been in love with a girl.