It's the contrasts in life that make the damn thing so
"East is East" (Imdb listing) presents a cornucopia of them, and does
so with such a vivid good spirit and raw emotional
force that it's a hard film to get out of one's head.
When the cultural values of Muslim Pakistan meet the
relatively liberal world of England, the sparks that
result make for some of the most entertaining cinema
of the year.
Om Puri stars as George Khan, a Pakistani immigrant
and chip-shop owner who has made good on one version
of the Pakistani dream -- he has come to England,
started his own business, married an English woman and
had a strong and healthy family of five sons and a
daughter. But it's the kids that cause George the
series of problems that give "East is East" its
emotional power and comic intensity, beginning when
Khan's eldest son Nazir flees his arranged marriage,
an act that brings a largely self-imposed cloud of
shame upon his father.
This cloud soon expands into the repressive atmosphere
that drives the rest of Khan's family -- including his
English wife, who is ably played by Linda Bassett -- to
increasingly desperate attempts to escape from his
domineering and sometimes cruel attempts to turn the
family into his vision of a real Pakistani household.
While the film takes on some extremely serious issues,
including domestic violence and culture shock, it does
so with an amazingly deft touch. "East is East" has an
absolutely fearless sense of humor, and is similarly
bold when it presents scenes that are searingly
"East is East" shines as a comedy, and a vivid,
nuanced and spirited portrait of a racially-mixed
marriage in a community that isn't always welcoming to
dark-skinned immigrants. The dynamic between George
Khan and his wife Ella is absorbing and convincing,
with a playful banter that sometimes crosses over into
conversations -- and cultural arguments -- of a deadly
And while the film does feature a few dead-end
subplots (like a deceptively promising one about a
racist right-wing politician's ascent toward power),
it feels satisfyingly complete.
"East is East" suceeds by managing to keep a sense of
humor - and perspective - about issues that cause most
films to lapse into maudlin hysterics or
self-important bouts of lead-witted pomposity. This
British film is great stuff, and a wonderful
contrast... to Hollywood.
Filmfodder Grade: A