(out of 5)
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel is brought to the big screen by director Mira Nair with wonderfully sentimental results. A Bengali man who has been living abroad goes back to India to find a wife, brings her to New York and they raise two children. The first of them, a son, grows up to be an architect who has always hated his name: Gogol, named for the Russian writer whom his father has always admired and has had a secret connection with for many years. After having grown so far away from his heritage, grown-up Gogol (now played by Kal Penn) discovers bits and pieces of family history that draw him back to his root culture and into a deeper affection for the parents who have lived so far from their own home for so long. This is a highly enjoyable, sumptuous film that benefits from Nair’s intense direction and some very fine performances from Irrfan Khan and Tabu, magnificent as the parents who undergo the immigrant experience in the United States; it’s very rare to see a film that captures so well the divide between parents and children when two cultures exist in one home. The parents’ scenes are the film’s best, while Penn tries admirably but really can’t handle the depth of his role: one feels that important things are being revealed that go completely over his head, subtleties of emotion that were probably explicit in the novel but can’t translate to film. Still, Nair keeps the whole thing sentimental without ever getting maudlin, a soap opera of the highest order that is very moving and memorable.
Directed by Mira Nair
Cinematography by Frederick Elmes
Music by Nitin Sawhney
Production Design by Stephanie Carroll
Costume Design by Arjun Bhasin
Film Editing by Allyson C. Johnson