Film Review: East is East

Offering charm & heartbreak, served with a side order of comedy.

A Pakistani family. Manchester. 1971. George - father of seven children - tries to marry his sons off in the traditional Pakistani way of arranged marriages.

East is EastIt has been said the best plot-lines can be written on a postcard. However "East is East" - a film with intelligence and humour - can't be summed up in one line, such as that above.

We watch as George tries to control the children's lives, while never actually realizing that they are not like him. But in a way, they are like him. Confused? His second wife Ella is English so why is he opposed to his sons marrying English girls? The kids say that they are English, they were born in England and by an English mother. At one stage in the film, the youngest boy, Sajid, runs in to the house shouting "the Pakistanis are here".

The film raises many questions and could be reviewed on its treatment of a pluralist society and generations who were not born in the mother/father country but that would be sterilizing a lively and entertaining film.

Ayub Khan-Din's script (the film is based on his play) has issues that any person, of any age group, or of any nationality can tackle. Teenagers trying to make their life decisions; a relationship that turns abusive; a traditional father trying to cope with the generation gap; a mother who is stuck between the children and her husband. But while all the issues are brought up, the film is constantly funny. This is down to Damien O'Donnell's direction. In any other hands, the film could be a mess. With "East is East", O'Donnell shows that the ability to combine tragedy and comedy that he showed in his short film, "Thirty Five Aside", was not flash-in-the-pan but a skill that will be a pleasure to watch in years to come.

The performance of all the cast are uniformly excellent with Om Puri (the father George Kahn) and Linda Bassett (Ella Kahn) outstanding in their roles. They make us warm to their characters and then suffer with them. Many people talk about Oscars when it comes to performances like these. I, on the other hand, can only recommend that you go and see it for yourself.

You may have seen the posters with the dog, yet it doesn't play a huge role in the film. However it provides one of an unusual visual gag. I have seven words for you: randy dog, fat girl, flowery dress, wall. Want to know more? Go see "East is East".

Robert Lanigan

(bullet) 'East is East' hit Irish cinema screens on Nov. 5, '99