Written by: #JuggySohal
Diversity, inclusivity, and so-called positive discrimination are all points of discussion in Ticking That Box, a film that follows a South Asian woman’s rejection from her dream job, and her realisation that perhaps there was more to it than she first thought. The issues raised in Juggy Sohal’s script are undoubtedly important, perhaps now more than ever in a society that so desperately wants to claim it is free from racism, and at a time when more insidious forms of discrimination and prejudice thrive. Unfortunately, the subject matter is let down in execution.
Pritty’s confidence is knocked when she fails to secure a job she felt guaranteed, especially after her incredible interview. Having been forced to take a different job that she does not want at all, and sure that she’ll feel isolated in a firm ‘full of white people’, she is less than enthusiastic when her boyfriend (who brushes aside her concerns by saying that the first company was probably just racist) takes her to the pub to celebrate. Over the course of the afternoon, Pritty and her friends discuss the wider implications of her failure to get the first job, and the reason why she might have got the second one.
From the opening scene, Sohal and Nawaz seem unsure of their desired tone. We lurch from Pritty literally dancing away from the interview, to her quiet disbelief at her failure, to a melodramatic sequence of shouting and sobbing and gorging on chocolate. After this, the film becomes far more grounded – and this middle act is the most successful – before taking on a firmly didactic tone. Presumably, the exaggerated, ostensibly comedic scenes in the first act exist to juxtapose the more serious discussions in the latter half of the film, but rather than feeling like a clever, or perhaps even effectively jarring shift, it instead feels like unfocused direction, and leaves the film floundering to keep up with itself.
Due to this, instead of telling a story that introduces the issues organically, the film feels like a series of speeches written to educate the viewer. The characters become talking heads, and at times it is clear that they are reading from a script; one almost expects them to look directly at the camera. Some performances do stand out: Chanel Fernandes is natural and charismatic as Pritty’s friend Kiran, and in fact in that strong middle section has some of the best lines and delivery; and Tadeyo “Cocoa Divine” Akitoye and Akil Largie as a Black couple who have learned to ‘play the game’ in Britain offer an interesting perspective. Unfortunately, while seeing such a diverse cast onscreen is refreshing (and all the more frustrating that it is not nearly as common as it should be), they feel less like real people, and more like a means to deliver Sohal’s admittedly important message.
On top of a script that lets down strong performers, there are also technical problems. At least twice, actors’ mouth movements are not synced to their voices. There is also a somewhat distracting black line that runs down the right side of the screen throughout, and a number of framing issues. In general, the film would have benefitted from a stronger edit. These problems can perhaps be put down to the film’s low budget, and could be easily overlooked if the script and the direction were tighter.
In the end, Ticking That Box is disappointing. While it is wonderful to see a diverse cast exploring a key issue, and there are moments when they are allowed to truly shine, this subject deserves a stronger script.