After the death of the family patriarch, a mother and daughter's precarious existence is ripped apart. They must find strength in each other if they are to survive the malevolent forces that threaten to engulf them.
In Flames is the International Feature submission for Pakistan. The film is about twenty-five year old medical student Mariam. She lives with her widowed mother Fariha and her younger brother Bilal, in a small gloomy apartment in Karachi. Left devastated by the sudden death of her grandfather, they’re now left without any adult male figure in their lives and a string of debts that they have no way of paying.
One day, Marian meets a fellow student Asad. He’s recently moved back to Pakistan from studying in Canada. He’s instantly drawn to Marian and he begins to call her non-stop wanting to spend more time with her. His persistence works and soon they’re hanging out in the school library, in the park, and taking long walks together. They even sneak away to the beach which turns out to be a perfect day. Well, that is until the unimaginable happens. Asad crashes his motorbike and instantly dies, while Marian is slightly injured. What happens next begins to become a blur for her as she starts to confuse reality with fantasy.
Daily life is difficult. Daily life in a patriarchal society is that much more difficult. The conniving men in the film constantly feel like they can act whatever way they want without any punishment. One man smashes Marian’s car. One man masturbates in front of their apartment window. One man attempts to steal their apartment and their car. Marian is called names and is quickly made aware that she has no protection when in need of help. Every male action in the mere presence of a young unmarried woman brings out the worst in them.
As Marian and her mother navigate their life in a male dominated society, their bond begins to grow as they improve their communicate and their feelings towards one another. When Marian’s father passed away, Fariha would experience insomnia night after night. Nightmares would haunt her until she learned to let go from everything about that relationship. A healer told Fariha that if she ever experiences these nightmares again, it means that her daughter is making the same mistakes as her, and repeating the same patterns.
Soon enough, the two women begin to realize that in order to move on into the future, they’ll have to burn everything from the past and set it in flames.