Projections - Movie Reviews

East is East East is East

A spry raucous comedy called East is East serves as a fine companion piece to last year's My Son the Fanatic.  Set in 1971 with a hangover spirit from the 60's in a Manchester, England suburb this sharply acted cross cultural affair is touching and often funny as Om Puri leads an ensemble cast as a stern Pakistani paterfamilias.

The detractors of Damian O'Donnell's first, vivaciously directed feature, will point out its obvious handling of a politically incorrect deviousness.  However, the bounds of viewers' opinions notwithstanding, East is East is still optimistic in how it gets into the heart of its material and characters, and there it succeeds in a light hearted, cheeky way.

Puri's George Khan is the strong disciplinarian over six boys and a daughter.  Saleem (Chris Bisson) fancies himself an artist while in a school for engineering.  Meenah (Archie Panjabi) is always kicking a soccer ball in the streets and the dashing Tariq (Jimi Mistry) is having fun with blond neighbor Stella (Emma Rydal).

They all have strong accents and speak English, enjoying fatty foods when dad's away and distance themselves from the nearby Mosque where they could be learning Arabic.

George's wife, ironically, of 25 years, is the no nonsense, caring Ella (Linda Bassett), who hails from Lancaster, and a food operation of fish and chips is also part of the British connection that keeps the family fed and clothed.

Well written by Ayub Khan Din from his own play, the story really gets going as the oldest son Nazie (Ian Aspinall) strands his arranged bride at the alter and runs away from home.  Soon, the smallest Khan named Sjid, played by Jordan Routledge, looking like Kenny from South Park with his parka, is brought to the hospital as a witty scene revolves around the Khan's misunderstanding that he has been circumcised.

Finally, George schemes to have Tariq and Abdul (Raji James) wed into a traditional Pakistani clan in close-by Bradford as more Pakistanis live there.  But Tariq and Abdul learn by accident of their father's way and an unsolid kinship may be split wide open.

O'Donnell instills a 60's British mark on his frenetic piece that isn't a rehash of many of the cross-cultural pictures seen in recent years.  How things come together with a hyperbolic production design and costumes subtly edge, is the flavorful slang used from many of the players whose performance has an empathy which is felt, amid the political and social conflicts of the time.

East is East is never grounded in social melodrama as it keeps a firm comic sensibility alive and the pushy Puri excels in setting out a varied performance, not disturbing O'Donnell's punchy tone, and Bassett comes into her own, especially near the climax, with emotional Elan in dealing with the patriarchal type and the westernized children.

There is an understanding of family that rings true with little slow spots, and accents which aren't confusing in a small film that nicely crosses cultures in a big, heartfelt way.

East is East

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