Fanatic [1965]

Most generation gaps focus on conservative parents and radical kids, but My Son the Fanatic depicts the opposite: taxi driver Parvez (Om Puri) can't understand why his son has turned to Muslim fundamentalism, calling the Western world of their corner of London corrupt and driven by sex. Meanwhile, Parvez finds himself working for a hedonistic German businessman (Stellan SkarsgÄrd from Breaking the Waves and Good Will Hunting) who has more or less hired a prostitute named Bettina (Rachel Griffiths from Hilary and Jackie and Children of the Revolution), with whom Parvez has become friends. As Parvez's wife also turns towards fundamental ways, and a Muslim holy man comes to live in their house, Parvez turns more and more to Bettina for solace. Their friendship turns more intimate, bringing the family conflict to a head. This could be little more than a midlife crisis fantasy, but My Son the Fanatic thickens its story with cultural details and well-developed characters. The performances are rich and affecting; Om Puri is charming and sympathetic, and makes Parvez's moral conflicts genuine and understandable. Though Bettina, as a hooker with a heart of gold, is a bit of a stereotype, Griffiths's integrity as an actress makes the character compelling. An affecting film that doesn't provide easy answers to the difficult questions it explores. Written by Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid). --Bret Fetzer

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