East is East (1999)

Incorporating a blend of humor and heartbreak with ethnic issues, “East is East” sometimes seems awkward and wrong-headed, but it’s successes are more plentiful than it’s failures. The talented cast is a big plus, led by Om Puri and Linda Bassett as the wildly divergent parents, and Jordan Routledge as the adorable youngest child, Sajid.

Manchester, 1971. George (Puri) is an old-fashioned Muslim and stern father of seven rebellious children, who are more white than Muslim and resent their father’s interfering ways. Their mother, Ella (Bassett,) is an fairly assertive and modern British lady who tries to work out disagreements within the family. When Nazir (Ian Aspinall) panics during an arranged marriage ceremony and walks out on his bride, the clan is thrown into discord.

As George becomes increasingly domineering and abusive, Sajid clings to his childhood like his well-worn parka that he never takes off. Ella tries to maintain some control over the deteriorating situation, and George becomes determined to marry off two of his oldest sons to two ugly brides.

The odd mixture of strident comedy and domestic drama doesn’t always work. Something like a amorous Great Dane or a vagina-shaped art project might seem mildly funny, but seems discordant among frank scenes of domestic violence. The acting is strong from the leads, and they help the movie quite a bit along the rough patches.

Jordan Routledge is cute and expressive as the youngest lad of the family. Linda Bassett is convincing playing the frustrated, beleaguered matriarch, and while I didn’t agree with all her decisions, I sympathized with her for the most part. George is not a cartoon cutout villain, but I think his treatment of his family might have been treated a bit more seriously if he weren’t a ‘traditional Muslim man.’

Ella might defend her husband, but we modern girls know better- if a man gives us a black eye and menaces our children, he is O-U-T out! Religion is neither a defense or an excuse. *SPOILER ALERT* I don’t like how she gets back together with him at the end. I guess it happens, but it wasn’t a satisfying ending. She should have shown that b**tard the door. *END OF SPOILER*

For the most part, “East is East” is a charming movie. I liked the character-based humor and the kids’ antics. It would be annoying growing up in a big family like that. You wouldn’t have any privacy! The kids were pretty much stacked on top of each other like a cheese sandwich. I had some problems with the film but overall I liked it.

I think the treatment of the unattractive women in the film could’ve been a little less cruel, but like the ending, it’s a reality of life that might not be pretty to face, but exists all the same. The world has a long way to go when it comes to being unbiased and dispelling shallow values. Overall a good movie.

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