Mimi review: Are Summer and John 2021’s biggest villains?

A funny, heartwarming, and modern story about what it means to be a parent.

When I watched the trailer for Mimi earlier this week, I thought the movie had already given away all of its twists, but boy was I wrong. I really, really enjoyed this movie. Kriti Sanon and Pankaj Tripathi are a comedy duo that I did not anticipate playing so well off each other and, once again, Hindi cinema shows it has the deepest bench in any film industry when it comes to actors playing parents. Supriya Pathak in particular amazes me every time, because I still see her cutting off Deepika Padukone’s finger in Ram-Leela (2013) and here she is again playing the long-suffering, kindly mother.

The movie had me hooked, though, with the casting of Summer and John, a white American couple searching India for a woman “healthy” enough to be a surrogate mother for them. They are played by Evelyn Edwards, an American, and Aidan Whytock, a South African who also attended boarding school in England. I was just fascinated to see an American character whose Hindi language capabilities were actually realistic (I’m looking at you, Lagaan). Summer has a thick American accent when she speaks and it is clearly a textbook- driven Hindi. I jumped up and said, “That’s how I speak Hindi!” The accuracy was welcome, because it seems that English speaking roles are either filled with white people who do not speak English themselves or the white actors are given lines in Hindi that are too advanced to be believable (Elizabeth started learning Hindi at the beginning of the movie!). This is not a plea for representation, far from it. I was just pleased to see that these performances were unlikely to take me out of the story.

That said, Summer and John are the worst people in the world and they should not be parents to any child. I won’t elaborate on this until the spoiler section below. But the roles of Summer and John bring up a lot of questions about the ethics of surrogacy, adoption, and even abortion.

As for the rest of the story, I usually get exasperated with cases of misunderstanding and forced conflict. But the humor in Mimi was never taxing. I especially liked the struggles Mimi and Bhanu (Tripathi) face when hiding in her friend Shama’s (Sai Thamankar) Muslim neighborhood.

There is really only one song in this movie, the pseudo item number in the beginning where we learn that Mimi is a very accomplished dancer in her Rajasthani town. It was forgivable but also forgettable. Even without many songs, the movie stretches beyond two hours, with a late third act conflict that resolves itself fairly quickly.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and will likely watch it again. I am also becoming something of a fan of Kriti Sanon and am excited to see what she does in the future.

SPOILERS BELOW

SPOILER ALERT

Well into Mimi’s pregnancy, her doctor in Jaipur in forms Summer and John that their child has Down Syndrome. This is obviously extremely difficult news and parents of disabled children do have to go through a process of re-imagining their futures that can be painful. Summer, though, simply decides she does not want this child. She is desperate to be a mother, but apparently only to a “normal” child. Summer and John are well-off, established people who have asked a young woman to carry their child and, due to a diagnosis of Down Syndrome, they run off, telling Bhanu that Mimi can abort the child. Excuse me? Even in the most relaxed regulations concerning abortion, it is far too late for that and disability is not an acceptable reasoning in any case. They leave Mimi in the final trimester with their child and run back to the United States. I hate them.

Mimi is told by the same doctor that parents often abandon surrogate mothers and this drives home a question I had from the beginning of the movie…how ethical or moral is it to tour around poor areas of a country offering money to desperate women to bear your child? The film seems to come down on the side of adoption over surrogacy, or at least cautioning people to be careful about surrogacy, especially with foreign parents like Summer and John. The surrogacy industry in this movie has the air of a flesh market and it is troubling to say the least.

Mimi delivers the baby, a healthy baby boy named Raj (Jacob Smith) who, as it turns out, does not have Down Syndrome. In the 21st century I am not sure how common it is to misdiagnose something like this, but for now we just have to go with it. Mimi loves Raj and we see a very sweet montage of Mimi and her family and friends raising this obviously white child as their own. Then, four years later, here come Summer and John to say they want their son. When I tell you I was shouting at my television...where, exactly, do these people get off? Would they have come looking for Raj if he had been disabled? The movie kind of drops this question in favor of emphasizing the theme of what it means to a be a parent with the moral being that biology is far less important than care and love.

Summer and John appear to learn this lesson, to the extent that two narcissistic sociopaths who weaponize their mental health to manipulate people can. They adopt a little girl in Rajasthan named Tara. The movie wants us to see this as a happy ending. Little Tara better not have so much as ADHD, or she’ll find herself back in the orphanage.

Maybe I’m going a little too hard on Summer and John but they clearly do not want to care for a child as much as they want to “be parents.” They’re the worst. But I love the way this movie brought up questions around motherhood, parenthood, class, race, religion…all of it. It just kind of leaves some of those answers for a later day.

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