East Is East (1999)

DAMIEN O’DONNELL

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBUnited Kingdom1999.  FilmFour, British Broadcasting Corporation, Assassin Films.  Screenplay by , based on his play.  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by European Film Awards 1999.  Toronto International Film Festival 1999.  

Twenty-five years after he moved from Pakistan to England and married the British girl he fell in love with,  has raised six boys and one girl and found no end of headaches in trying to keep them in line with his values and traditions. The film, adapted by Ayub Khan-Din from his hit stage play, opens with eldest son Nazir bailing on his arranged marriage and, as a result, earning status as the living dead to his heavy-handed pater. When the two oldest of the remaining boys (, ) discover that they are being set up to enter matrimony with two sisters they have never met, it sets off a chain of events that see the great sire frustrated between his love of the familiar and his embrace of the culture he adopted so long ago.  A delightful cast of characters and superb acting help you forget the uneven tone of a film that veers uncomfortably between dark and light without ever knowing if it means to be farcical or poignant. The story feels like it makes itself up as it goes along, but these figures are so pleasantly relatable that the rambling narrative is not a problem, while more disturbing is the way in which it does not quite reconcile Puri’s violent anger with the more sitcom-like antics of the kids. The grounded depiction of early seventies England is too effective to let the contrivances of some scenes be a problem, and its unresolved ending only adds to a sense of realism.

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