Coming-of-age stories take many forms, but one universal truth they all adhere to is that young people have to learn that the world kind of sucks before they can begin to make their own way in it.
“Rickshaw Girl” is no different even though the story is set half a world away. Naima (Novera Rahman) is a headstrong, artistic dreamer making her way in her small village in Bangladesh.
She dreams of a better life, but opportunities for young women where she lives are few and far between. Her father supports the family by driving a rickshaw, but when he falls ill, the family has no means to pay for his medication.
Naima takes matters into her own hands and travels to the city of Dhaka without much of a plan to try to earn some money to help her family.
She quickly ends up living on the streets and bounces from one bad situation to the next and learns that it’s almost impossible for a young woman of meager means to earn a living in the big city.
She aspires to drive a rickshaw just like her father, but is told is a job only for men. Undeterred, Naima cuts her hair and poses as just one of the guys and finds both beauty and heartbreak pedaling around the bustling metropolis.
Director Amitabh Reza Chowdhury does an excellent job of making this high-concept story feel plausible and lived in. The city of Dhaka is as much a character in the movie as Naima and Chowdhury pulls no punches in showing both its flaws and vibrant energy.
Rahman is impressive as she anchors this movie. At times Naima is just fighting for survival, but she never loses her spark or determination to provide for her family.
“Rickshaw Girl” takes us right into the streets of Dhaka and doesn’t blink, all while we get to root for a character whose strength and resourcefulness is inspiring to watch.
“Rickshaw Girl” is not rated but features adult situations and some violence.