Set in East Pakistan in the late '60s, just before the civil war that brought independence to Bangladesh, this elegant film owes a debt to Renoir's The River and also the work of Satyajit Ray. Similarities lie in how telling observations are offered in a quiet, humanist tone that affords each character his or her reasons, and in a child's eye view of events reminiscent of Pather Panchali. The devotion to Islam of Kazi, a retiring homeopath, prompts him to send his young son Anu to a city boarding school known for its strict regime. Happily, Anu here befriends the outsider Rokon. Meanwhile, wary of the relatively hedonistic rites practised by many local Hindus, Kazi is as adamantly opposed to the administration of allopathic medicine to his daughter as he is sceptical of rumours of Muslims killing Muslims. Others, however, are all too aware of the divisions between Sufis and mullahs, Hindus and communists. Director and co-writer Tareque Masud's handling of the social, political and religious forces at work at a critical moment in his country's history is deft enough to prevent the movie becoming too predictable or schematic. Occasional lapses into melodrama may be a flaw, but the music, vivid images and overall assurance easily compensate.