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Sister Midnight Review: Unapologetically Wild

An Indian woman holds her hair up with a plaster over her nose in the film Sister Midnight

The Mumbai-set Sister Midnight is the bold, quirky, often hilarious tale of a young bride who dares to follow her instincts, and a very strong second feature for director Karan Kandhari.


Director: Karan Kandhari
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Horror
Run Time: 110′
Cannes Premiere: May 19, 2024
Release Date: TBA

“Why can’t you just be a person, like the other people?,” Gopal (Ashok Pathak) asks his wife in Sister Midnight, not too long after the 30-something newlyweds have reached their new home in Mumbai. But Uma (Radhika Apte) is no ordinary wife. The moment the young woman arrives at her future home, she comes to realize that domestic life isn’t for her.

We can’t really blame her, though. Not only do our newlyweds barely know one another, since this was an arranged marriage, but her husband doesn’t seem interested in her in the slightest.

Uma is a resourceful young woman with a quirky, larger than life personality. She knows exactly who she is, and she’s not about to change her whole identity and be relegated to the role of wife. She doesn’t know how to cook and look after a house and she’s willing to learn, but she is first surprised and then frustrated by her husband’s lack of interest in her, both sexually and in terms of actually getting to know her. Gopal, on the other hand, believes he’s doing exactly what a husband is supposed to do. He goes to work to bring home some money, and spends his evenings getting drunk. But when he comes back, his wife’s whole existence doesn’t revolve around making him happy: on the contrary, she’s surly all the time, and he doesn’t understand what’s wrong with her.

Our first introduction to Uma and Gopal sets the tone for the rest of the film, with slapstick humor, abrupt cuts between scenes, frequent black transitions, and heightened sounds that, from the start, make it clear that Sister Midnight is going to be an experience like no other. There’s simply so much personality in the movie, thanks to writer-director Karan Kandhari’s distinctive style, a punk attitude that remains throughout, infectious blues, country, and hard rock music, and a screenplay that subverts expectations from start to end.

As we witness Uma become more feral and even ruthless by the minute – determined not to settle for conformity – the film amps up on the absurdity and it’s quite simply impossible to take your eyes off it: there’s a point where you’ll genuinely have no idea of where the movie could possibly go from there, and if you’re ready to embrace the answer, you’ll have so much fun with it.

Sister Midnight (Protagonist Pictures / Cannes Film Festival)

It’s best to avoid revealing too much about what actually happens in Sister Midnight, but the film follows Uma as she starts to take walks on her own at night, slowly embracing the darkest sides of her personality in a journey of liberation that even has elements of the supernatural. There are points where it reminded me of Ana Lily Amirpour‘s A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, about a lonely Iranian vampire observing the world around her. Just like Amirpour’s film, Sister Midnight never loses focus from its compelling protagonist, and we are on her side even in its most absurd moments. But Kandhari’s film is also quirky and wild in a way that feels entirely its own. There are moments when you’ll be crying with laughter and others where you won’t have a clue of what’s going on, and yet, surprisingly, it absolutely works.

As Uma, Radhika Apte is superb. The film wouldn’t have worked without a believable protagonist, and Apte pretty much carries the entire movie on her shoulders for most of its runtime. Not only that, but she manages to be both grounded and over the top, in a way that makes us empathize with Uma despite how different her world is from our own reality. Her comedic timing is excellent, and her reactions to the crazy things happening to her make Sister Midnight highly entertaining film.

Sister Midnight has some pacing issues, particularly in its middle section, which is also when it becomes a little gruesome. There’s a specific moment when the humor becomes more macabre which you’ll either be on board with or not. In that scene, several people left the screening when I watched it in Cannes. But those who remained had so much fun discovering exactly who Uma gets to become, and the answer makes the movie a journey worth talking. Sister Midnight is an unapologetically wild gem of a film that you should absolutely seek out, and a very strong feature from a director to keep an eye on.


Sister Midnight premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May, 2024. Read our list of 20 films to watch at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival!

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