East Is East


Tariq (Mistry) much prefers his identity as Tony at the local nightclub...

dir Damien O'Donnell • scr Ayub Khan-Din
with Om Puri, Linda Bassett, Jimi Mistry, Raji James, Emil Marwa, Chris Bisson, Archie Panjabi, Jordan Routledge, Ian Aspinall, Lesley Nicol, Emma Rydal, Ruth Jones, Gary Damer
FilmFour 99/UK 4 out of 5 stars

See also: WEST IS WEST (2010)

With a funny and insightful script, East is East takes on both cultural and generational conflicts in a remarkably effective way. It's an extremely engaging film that packs a powerful punch ... even if you can see it coming from miles away. But that hardly matters with dialogue and acting like this.

The sprawling, unruly Khan family are introduced in a very clever series of scenes. Even after decades in Manchester, George (Puri) still rules the roost Pakistani-style while his English wife (Bassett) goes along with him for the most part, allowing him to raise their seven children in the Muslim faith and even agreeing to an arranged marriage for their eldest son (Aspinall). But when that goes horribly wrong, she starts to wonder if she's doing the right thing for her children, each of whom has a decidedly British independent spirit. When George takes the bull by the horns by deciding to marry off the next two sons--the suave Tariq (Mistry) and the shy Abdul (James)--against their wishes, even the religious son (Marwa) starts to wonder if the Old Country's ways are best. But will Dad stop screaming long enough to listen?

The large ensemble cast is superb, with solid foundations in Puri and Bassett, who give performances of warmth and passion that sharply bring out both the pathos and hilarity. The children may be defined by stereotypes, but they're fleshed out as real people; and it also helps that the surrounding cast is full of scene-stealers like Nicol as the neighbour who says exactly what she means.

Director O'Donnell maintains a breezy tone from start to finish, despite the serious stuff that's going on. And it does feel a bit TV sitcom-ish as it shifts to deliver its Important Life Lesson. But full credit to Khan-Din, who has avoided all the usual stage-to-film pitfalls to turn his play into a terrific movie packed with vivid, memorable characters and situations. And a truly Important Life Lesson too.

[15--themes, language, some violence] 13.Jul.99
UK release 12.Nov.99; US release 14.Apr.00

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"Great movie, great script, great humour, great atmosphere, great acting. Go see it you will not be disappointed." --Connor O, Ireland.

"Great fun although I thought that the mother would have been more of a fighter - having brought up 7 mixed race children in a time when it was still a novelty. But then there wouldn't have been as much of a storyline, so what do I know!" --Mike W, London.

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© 1999 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall