What’s Love Got to Do with It?
Warm and Inviting
A Hollywood film featuring Lily James, Shabana Azmi, and Sajal Aly, directed by Shekhar Kapur, written by Jemima Khan, and produced by Working Title Films, is one to be watched in a cinematic experience. Or so we thought.
Zoe (Lily James) is a documentary filmmaker. She goes through a dating app that only recommends a whole lot of Mr. Wrongs. However, for her childhood friend and immediate neighbour, Kaz, an oncologist, the answer to marriage is following the path of age-old parents’ chosen one - an arranged marriage. Kaz’s parents hope to find a bright, educated and beautiful bride from Pakistan. The commitment-phobic Zoe is working on a film project for which she is casting. She learns that her friend Kazim (Shazad Latif) will opt for an arranged and settle down like his parents. She begins to convince him to let her film the quest, but her personal misgivings threaten the project and Kazim’s search.
Nonetheless, Zoe films Kaz’s journey to marital bliss with a complete stranger, but she soon begins to wonder if she can learn a lesson or two from an entirely different approach to finding love. Kazim’s attempt at ‘assisted’ marriage is subtly portrayed by Zoe. With many of its complications.
Kapur and Khan have attempted to tread uncharted waters by exploring the rom com genre in a Pakistani setting. They have touched upon the virtues of arranged marriage and highlighted the qualms of Western romantic marriage. While there is disparity in divorce rates, a lot of cultural sensitivity is undermined in the film’s entire structure of the romance that comes across quite believably on the poster, but not on the screen.
Latif is a great actor, with likeable, assertive presence as Kaz. He has a streak of light-hearted comedy. For instance, when he reminded Zoe and her mum Cath (Emma Thompson) that he must reach the airport before time to be ready for ‘random’ searches. On the other hand, James is sharp but rather torn between personal and professional loyalties.
James and Latif share screen space together relatively fewer times, especially when they are alone, so any potential romance is primarily based on childhood friendship and awkward first kisses, with a few steady glances.
Shabana Azmi, as usual, makes a warm presence and she is wonderful to watch. As Kazim’s mum, Aisha, she is composed while speaking with her son, yet stern when required.
Sajal Ali, Kazim’s bride-to-be, Maymouna, has been an impactful actress historically, but she fails to appeal with monotone dialogues and poker-faced expressions.
I also felt like Thompson’s character, as Cath, made a tried effort at the odd role she was designated. Cath is ecstatic about her neighbours and loves to share food, dress and celebrations. She also tosses insensitive language and some micro-aggressions intermittently. It is important to note that these needless, casual comments are uncalled for, coming from a likeable character. Very discombobulating. Maybe that’s the point.
It is said that Jemima Khan has pulled elements from her own experience of marrying a Muslim man and living in Pakistan, with a strong focus on childhood friends living on the same street but hailing from different backgrounds.
An extremely lovable cast with colourful portrayal of Pakistani (and Pakistani-British) culture makes this film quite warm and inviting, but a dragging story and the lack of central romance will not hold the attention as it should have. For a well-marketed film, this may have garnered sufficient sales but not enough to grace a full house.
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