AISHA (Tribeca 2024) – Review by Sherin Nicole

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Aisha charts the experiences of a young Nigerian woman as she seeks international protection in Ireland. Caught in limbo for years in Ireland’s immigration system, Aisha Osagie develops a friendship with former prisoner Conor Healy who she meets at one of the accommodation centers. Aisha and Conor’s growing friendship soon looks to be short lived as Aisha’s future in Ireland comes under threat.

An inconvenient love becomes a balm for an asylum seeker during uncertain times in Ireland. Writer/director Frank Berry’s third feature is rooted in a starkly compelling reality so apt it could be a documentary. There is no paradox in saying Aisha is a study of hopeful despair.

Letitia Wright embodies the title character—a Nigerian refugee caught in the serpentine Irish immigration system—with a counterbalance of fierceness and fright. Seeking only safety, Aisha is stranded in the shared isolation of rejections and appeals necessary to make a home in a land that screams she doesn’t belong. Unable to go forward or backward, she is denied righteous anger and grief for fear she might be judged as too risky or unstable. Wright exudes resilience in this role, playing Aisha with a multi-hued nuance.

The film’s commentary on the harsh realities for many immigrants who seek better lives, is paralleled by a friendship bordering on love between Aisha and Conor (Josh O’Connor). Both characters carry the scars of inmates in many ways. Conor, as a formerly incarcerated man under the threat of reverting to old ways, and Aisha, who is trapped under the threat of deportation. That is the core of their connection, a loneliness that magnetizes them to one another.

Aisha tells an unadorned story—stripped to its bones and made sharper because of it. There’s no fat or flinching to soften the harshness of Aisha’s unfulfilled and at times tragic situation. This makes the tiny ‘tendernesses’ between Aisha and Connor precious. When Aisha ends it is without resolution and that feels like the truth.

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Sherin Nicole

Sherin Nicole writes about film and produces content for geeks and nerds alike on Geek Girl Riot.