In present-day Karachi, a medical student struggles to keep her family together while being stalked by forces she can’t entirely understand.
In Karachi, medical student Mariam (Ramesha Nawal) is struggling. She’s still dealing with the fresh loss of her grandfather and doing her best to support her grieving mother (Bakhtawar Mazhar) and brother (Jibraan Khan) while preparing for her upcoming exams. An estranged uncle (Adnan Shah Tipu) re-enters their lives and declares himself their new patriarch, making noises about handling their finances out of the kindness of his heart. Mariam’s mother is grateful for the help; Mariam can see disaster looming.
Asad (Omar Javaid), a charming fellow student freshly back from Canada, offers the possibility of romance and security, but even that is fraught with its own specific dangers. And after a motorcycle accident, Mariam finds herself even more alone and vulnerable. Something seems to be stalking her through the streets, something that never quite comes into focus but whose presence she can feel at every turn.
In Flames is a gripping drama about trauma, internalized abuse, and the misogyny woven into the fabric of any fundamentalist culture, with a streak of Guillermo del Toro’s empathetic ghost stories, in which spirits return with agendas the living cannot fully comprehend. In his feature directorial debut, Zarrar Kahn tells a story of women — not just Mariam, but her mother as well — forced to navigate the random violence of their oppressive, patriarchal society.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: themes of abuse; mature themes, frightening scenes, sexual innuendo