Punching at the Sun (2006)

“Maybe that’s why there called Legends. They’re too big for this world.”

Words: Desmond Childs

punching-at-the-sun-poster

“We all have the same future.”

Dealing with the loss of a loved one seems nearly impossible to those going through it. The very idea of “moving on” or “getting use” to life without that special person actually sounds and feels like an insult to some. Why do I have to move on? Why did they have to pass away? What is death?

It’s been one month since the murder of Mameet’s older brother, Sanjay. The loss is felt by the entire neighborhood, but most seem to have moved on. Mameet’s parents, and his sister seem to be trying to cope with the loss in their own ways. Mameet, however, is very angry.

“He didn’t break ankles. He broke hearts!”

Sanjay (Mohammad Mirza) was a basketball legend. Like Joe “The Destroyer” Hammond or Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell. Friends and foes alike respected him immensely, and he appeared to have a bright future. That is until one fateful day in the local corner store. Sanjay becomes a victim in a robbery, and the rest of the movie focuses on how his friends and family deal with the loss. Mameet, Sanjay’s younger brother, takes center stage and is clearly showing signs of something more than grief.

Mameet is a time bomb throughout the picture. You can see it on his face. It’s hard to tell, aside from a brief scene, how Mameet was before his brother’s death. He has a couple of close friends that he runs around with. They don’t do much, the normal stuff seventeen-year olds do during the Summer in New York. The only difference, and it’s a big one, is that their all of South Asian descent. The movie takes place not too long after 9/11, so the heighten “awareness” of Mameet’s race and culture is touched on a few times. We’re not really shown outright racism in the film, but we do meet some people who lack the sensitivity gene.

The most important part of the movie is Mameet dealing with his brother’s murder. He’s angry, and isn’t sure how to deal with it. In fact, Mameet is so angry, that he quickly becomes prone to fits of rage. He’s frustrated and depressed. Tired and alone. And the reason we should all care? Because that one person you know, whose lost a loved one; may be feeling the same way or worse.

Director Tanuj Chopra doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel with Punching the Sun. He does take well-worn tropes and ideas and breathe new life into them. This movie feels a lot like some of Spike Lee‘s work from the late eighties or early nineties. Instead of watching Spike Lee’s Mookie or Larry Fishburne‘s Dap; we get Mameet, the disenchanted youth struggling to suppress his grief and anger. His father is hardly around, and when he is, he makes half-hearted attempts to talk to his son. His sister, slowly becoming a young woman, begins dating. And his mother, perhaps on the opposite end of the “grief-stricken” scale has fallen into a quiet depression. If it feels like I’m beating around the bush with writing about this movie, I am. I want you all to watch it. It’s not the greatest movie, but it’s not trying to be. Everything is kept simple and to-the-point. The world keeps spinning ahead. People continue to live their lives, unaffected by what has befallen Mameet and his family. Mameet’s buddies are around but don’t really know how to help Mameet through his grief. At one point, Mameet screams, “I’m going to blow this city up” while heaving a rock at a passing train. His heart aches, and his mind remains on the memory of his brother. Why won’t time reverse for Sanjay? Why won’t it stop? Ironically, Mameet seems to answer his own questions when speaking to a plain-clothes officer, “That’s how it is. People die. The world carries on.” The officer gives his condolences, but Mameet doesn’t care. He just wants his brother back.

This movie is pretty sad at times. I enjoyed it though, and would recommend you guys check it out on Asian Crush. As I said before, it’s not a flashy film or a pretty picture. It’s an open diary of a boy trying to deal with death. The thought of his brother dying. Even the idea of him taking his own life. It’s all here, and it’s all realistically played out. And I respect that. There’s even a glimmer of hope, provided by Mameet’s budding relationship with Shawni. Will Mameet be able to live on without his big brother to look up to?

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