This period drama has the Merchant/Ivory imprint on it with sumptuously broad cinematography.
In Before the Rains a busy British spice merchant is looking to make the roads in rural India (circa 1937) better for his business.
As played by Linus Roache (currently on TV's "Law & Order") the man has been embroiled in an adulterous affair with his exotic Indian maid (Nandita Das). Both are married, and the premise has much to offer as his dainty spouse (Jennifer Ehle) and child come to visit him from Britain. Also, complications ensue from the maid's imposing spouse and the merchant's assistant, as well as the violation of India's common law.
One feels caught up in the mood of a potentially volatile situation, yet the direction by Santosh Sivan and plotting by Cathy Rabin lacks an emotional, melodramatic drive. Sivan had brought the plight of a 19-year-old female suicide bomber in an intimate, passionate way in The Terrorist nearly a decade ago. This tale of forbidden romance, an empire, and culture clash is mired in allegory for India dealing with England's dominion over it.
Yet, despite some striking moments by Das and committed work by established thespians like Roache and Ehle, among a respectable cast, the sun-drenched atmosphere and authentic lush detail of a Merchant/Ivory production with its core interracial relations doesn't make it as absorbing as it should have been.
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