Reena Virk’s murder in BC, and the probing questions : The Tribune India

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Reena Virk’s murder in BC, and the probing questions

Reena Virk’s murder in BC, and the probing questions

The series elevates the case from being a region-specific hate crime to something universal.

Film: Disney+Hotstar: Under The Bridge

Director: Show creator: Quinn Shephard

Cast: Lily Gladstone, Riley Keough, Vritika Gupta, Archie Panjabi, Ezra Faroque Khan Chloe Guidry, Javon Walton and Aiyana Goodfellow

Parbina Rashid

A bunch of ‘disposable’ girls from Seven Oaks group home, a journalist looking for material for her book, and a police officer battling her own past — all connected through a murder.

‘Under The Bridge’ is an eight-part crime series based on the late Rebecca Godfrey’s true-crime novel of the same name, with three episodes currently streaming on Disney+Hotstar, which will be followed by one every week.

Set in Victoria, British Columbia (Canada), it focuses on 14-year-old Reena Virk (Vritika Gupta), the rebellious daughter of strict but loving parents Suman (Archie Panjabi) and Manjit (Ezra Faroque Khan), who leaves the dinner table in a huff on November 14, 1997, to meet her friends. She never returns.

Before her body is recovered from a waterway, we meet the members of the ‘Crip Mafia Cartel’ — Josephine Bell (Chloe Guidry), Dusty (Aiyana Goodfellow) and Kelly (Izzy G). The gang is the brainchild of Jo, a die-hard fan of gangster John Gotti. Vicious and vulnerable at the same time, she has a major influence on Reena.

When Reena commits the blunder of telling Jo’s friends that she has AIDS, Jo goes into an attack mode and what follows is kicking and punching of the hapless girl under the bridge by six girls and Warren Glowatski (Javon Walton), who joins in “just for the kick of it”. Jo later brags in front of Rebecca Godfrey (Riley Keough) how she marked Reena’s forehead with a burning cigarette. Rebecca, a native of Saanich, is back from New York to write a book about the troubled Victoria girls who the cops cruelly call ‘Bic girls’, after the disposable lighters.

But then, all cops are not insensitive. There’s indigenous Cam Bentland (Lily Gladstone), the investigative officer and once a ‘Bic girl’ herself, who knows how it is to be an outsider in a white society. Her complicated history with Rebecca, which trickles in slowly, is another highlight.

The makers take some creative liberty to present the case. Here, the author becomes one of the characters. But we are not complaining. Keough, the grandchild of Elvis Presley, who has wowed us with her roles in ‘American Honey’ and her Emmy-nominated title role in ‘Daisy Jones and the Six’, is in perfect sync with the formidable Gladstone (‘Killers of the Flower Moon’). Their presence throughout is subtle and reassuring, never taking away the focus from the central character. Pitted against two powerhouse performers, Vritika, too, holds her ground. Her confrontations with her family, her angst, touch the right chord.

Series creator Quinn Shepherd’s sensitive writing is backed by good performances, both by the veterans, including Archie Panjabi and Ezra Faroque Khan, and the youngsters. The teens light up the screen every time they appear. The background score, which is from the ’90s hip-hop scene, complements the mood.

‘Under The Bridge’, by digging deep into the psychological roots of the teenagers, the religious and cultural rigidity of the Virk family, which is in direct confrontation with Reena’s rebelliousness, the insider-outsider equation, elevates Reena’s murder case from being just another region-specific hate crime to something universal. By putting a human face on inhuman behaviour, Shephard compels us to examine a system where we often fail each other, and sometimes even ourselves. And that transforms this ‘whodunnit’ to a ‘whydunnit’.