East Is East [1999]

Manchester in 1971 is not the ideal time and place to raise a proper Pakistani family. But George Khan (Om Puri), father of seven unruly moppets and husband to a willful British wife (Linda Bassett), is determined to wield his influence over his clan. But what a clan this is, with Nazir (Ian Aspinall), who refuses his arranged wife; Saleem (Chris Bisson) who creates--shall we say controversial?--works of art; Tariq (Jimi Mistry), the mod boy who lives for discos and English girls; Meenah (Archie Panjabi), the only girl and tomboy extraordinaire; and Sajid (Jordan Routledge), who lives in a dirty fur-trimmed parka. Abdul (Raji James) and Maneer (Emil Marwa) stay more quietly in the background, although they lend their voices to the chorus of dissent against traditional ways. East Is East is Damien O'Donnell's directorial debut, and he nails the raucous tone from the opening scene, a church parade where the Pakistani children must do some deft maneuvering to avoid being seen by their Muslim father. At times such as these, the film is a straightforward comedy, and the children milk the cultural differences for every laugh they can. Yet the film takes a more somber turn when Saleem balks at his father's insistence on arranging Saleem's marriage. Puri is magnificent straddling the line between lovable father and brute enemy as he demands that the others obey his will, and his performance can be difficult to watch as he metamorphoses. Sympathies toward the characters shift throughout the film, highlighting the superb acting of the entire cast. Ultimately, though, humor wins out, making East Is East a tremendously fun film. --Jenny Brown

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