Image from film Cake (2018)

Director Asim Abbasi’s Pakistani dramedy, Cake (2018), highlights the personal developments and discoveries of one family as three grown siblings unite after their parents become ill. With this bittersweet reunion, old flames are reignited and a long-hidden secret threatens to tear their bond apart. Chosen as the Pakistani entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 91st Academy Awards, Cake presents polished chaos in its subject matter and delivery.

Bound by Blood: The film highlights the distant, strained relationship of adult siblings–sisters Zareen and Zara and older brother Zain—as they come together following the admittance of their father to the ICU. Living in different countries, there are visible strains as they attempt to reconnect without bringing up grudges of the past, especially between Zareen (Aamina Sheikh) and Zara (Sanam Saeed). The chemistry between actresses, who play the latter and former respectively, appears genuine and deep-seated as if they really did grow up together. This familial connection does a great service to the film in moments of tension, considering how a significant family secret from the past gets revealed to Zara, much to her dismay. However, there is an excessive amount of melodrama that does a disservice to the film—rendering its believability to a tier above a daytime soap opera.

The Icing on the Cake: There is no doubting the photogenic cast, exotic scenery, and stylish sets/costumes make truly appealing to watch. Every home backdrop is arranged to perfection as though it were a spread on the pages of Better Homes & Gardens magazine. Not only is Cake visually well-put-together, but the prominent soundtrack showcases contemporary Pakistani tracks that accentuate pivotal scenes and emphasize the cultural significance of certain ceremonies that take place in the film. The film is quite contemporary in plot and atmosphere, but these important music cues tie together the central theme of family in the film.

Overall, Cake is coated with sweet sentiments and imagery but remains a bit stale in its storytelling.

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