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UK 2000
Directed by
Damian O'Donnell
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

East Is East

Synopsis: George Khan is a Pakistani fish and chip shop owner in Salford, Manchester in the 1970's. A staunch Muslim who lives out is faith's patriarchal credo he tries in vain to impose his will on his wife and 6 children with little effect other than to alienate them. Having already tried to marry off his eldest son with disastrous results he embarks on the double betrothal of his next two sons with predictable results.

If the essence of humour is incongruity, small wonder that the British are so good at it. The class system has encouraged a split in the national psyche between diffidence and bombast, subservience and domination and whether one is victim or perpetrator depends only on the fall of circumstances. East is East works its incongruities well - Pakistanis living and working in the heartland of the English working class, a staunch Muslim and his lax Christian wife, a rabidly conservative father battling a burgeoning permissive youth culture.

From the opening scenes I feared that I was about to be subjected to the cod-awful sentimentalism of The Full Monty or Brassed Off but despite having fun with expatriate Pakistani culture, this film offers considerably more than a neat run-through of head-wagging sub-continental stereotypes. Like Muriel's Wedding, East is East takes family dysfunctionality and, albeit somewhat questionably, turns the pain experienced into laughter. Unlike the former however, and though it has been marketed as a comedy, East is East is more willing to show the suffering and the final confrontations between George and his family pull no punches, so to speak.

Credit for the quality of this film must go to both the screenplay by Ayub Khan-Din, who developed it from his stage play, and the director O'Donnell. There is no doubt a good deal of autobiographical experience lying behind the story and characters, one feels that the writer's blood is mixed with the ink and that if the genre chosen is "light", the comedy here is a more catharsis than entertainment. O'Donnell does a fine job of directing, which though stylistically "Modern British", keeps the images fresh without resorting to excessive gimmcry. Production and costume design is excellent, the soundtrack is jauntily appealing and the cast all do a fine job of making this well-crafted low budget film work.




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