Shabana Azmi, left, and Fawzia Mirza in Signature Move (Newcity)

One of the most genuinely funny and heart-warming films of the year, Signature Move explores the complexities of culture, love, sex, and gender through a humorous lens. A film that features an almost entire female cast and a majority female lead crew, Signature Move is not your generic romantic comedy. Writer and lead actress Fawzia Mirza brings wit and charm to the page and screen, drawing on her personal heritage as a source of comedic tension.

We follow the daily life of Zaynab (Mirza), an American-Pakistani immigration lawyer and dutiful daughter to her widowed mother, Parveen (Shabana Azmi), a first-generation immigrant. Through a bizarre client relationship, Zaynab begins training in women’s wrestling. The sessions are used as an outlet from her monotonous routine of caring for her mother, who remains engrossed in her Pakistani soap operas and obsession with finding her daughter a good husband.

We are quickly introduced to Alma (Sari Sanchez), a Mexican-American who prides herself as a self-aware, bookstore owner. Her free-spirited attitude proves the antithesis to Zaynab’s rigid mind-set. The two women meet at a bar and instantly hit it off, quickly becoming lovers. They begin to learn the personal culture of the other while realizing there are differences that are holding their relationship back.

As the film progresses, Zaynab’s home life becomes clearer through the mother’s character. The lingering shots of Parveen sitting in the chair, mesmerized by the television drama, imply her loneliness and absence from mainstream American life. Her binoculars are a tool for her to experience the real world, as she watches her neighbors from the safety of her living room. Director Jennifer Reeder uses Parveen as the comedic relief for the film—her interpretations of the soap operas and her social commentary from the window.

What sets this film apart from other LGBTQI films is its unique take on queer relationships. Rather than centering on an overtly lesbian romance, it follows an arc of individual transformation similar to a typical, heterosexual romantic comedy. Writers Lisa Donato and Mirza offer an honest depiction of what it’s like to date as a queer woman of colour in the 21st century. This is evident in the millennial humor and direct dialogue; there are no romantic fabrications but instead a reality check about modern dating. Although there are still the underlying cultural differences that cause a rift between Zaynab and Alma, they are neither melodramatic nor excessive in their display. The characters deal with being queer, second-generation immigrants in their own ways, as each family represents the various elements of the acceptance spectrum.

The bizarre inclusion of a female wrestling component gives the film the ability to explore harder issues with a humorous tone. This side narrative inevitably proves to be the glue to all of Zaynab’s relationships. As she delves further into the world of female wrestling, her relationships with the women in her life are strengthened.

Signature Move utilizes its voice to discuss a queer woman of color’s journey to self-acceptance. With an inherently personal tone of humor and self-awareness, Fawzia Mirza and Jennifer Reeder capture the audience from the get-go.

Directed by Jennifer Reeder
Written by Fawzia Mirza and Lisa Donato
Released by Newcity
USA. 80 min. Not rated
With Fawzia Mirza, Shabana Azmi, Sari Sanchez, Audrey Francis, Charin Alvarez, and Mark Hood