While I understand the Indian masala films usually involve having everything including the kitchen sink thrown into the plot, which will have enough room for the story to combine romance, mystery, drama, comedy, song and dance all together for possibly something for everyone to enjoy, It's a Wonderful Afterlife somehow had all these ingredients coming together, but felt a little too contrived at mixing everything up and gelling them all nicely, especially since it had a trailer that's not quite accurate, and it seemed more like a typical 3 hour film rather than its 100 minute duration.
Gurinder Chadha's more famous for her directorial breakthrough Bend It Like Beckham, which arguably introduced Kieira Knightley to the world, and here she combines an ensemble with the likes of Jimi Mistry, Sally Hawkins and the Indian actors Sanjeev Bhaskar, Shaheen Khan, Adlyn Ross and Ash Varrez in a film that started like an investigative drama with a potential serial killer on the loose in the Southall district of London, the policeman D S Murthy (Sendhil Ramamurthy) who had been transferred in for investigative work in his own community to sniff out details of the suspects, Roopi (Goldy Notay) and her mother Mrs Sethi (Shabana Azmi) who is desperate for the former to get married with much of her rejection based on her plumpish looks, Roopi's best friend Linda (Hawkins) who finds her inner Indian self and is somewhat of a self-taught spiritual guru, and the list goes on.
At best, the plot and its subplots were extremely scattered, and somehow it seemed that Chadha didn't manage to find common ground for all of them to coexist, with each plotline threatening to upstage and distract one from others. Prime to everything hinged on Mrs Sethi's rather protective quest to look for a potential husband for her daughter Roopi, and how the former's dealing with rejection led to an eventual five spirits tagging along with her, who through her guilty conscious is the only one able to see them all. The cat is let out of the bag early, and it's somehow not so much of a mystery other than a zany comedy to have these friendly ghouls make jokes at every opportunity.
The romantic leads of Sendhil Ramamurthy and Goldy Notay also lacked believable chemistry though the rushed romance didn't help their cause since the detective also had to juggle an ulterior motive, while that between Jimy Mistry and Sally Hawkins went down the road to explore how some people groove to the beat of other cultures since they're not at home with their own. Sally Hawkins though had a single major scene which mimicked a horror film where a woman scorned unleashes hell on earth during her own party, probably a comedic highlight of the film that defied all logic and pushed the film toward absurdity.
I had enjoyed Gurinder Chadha's works such as Bride and Prejudice, and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, but somehow this entry into her filmography seemed like a step back. Let's how she finds her groove back pretty soon with a stronger and more coherent story rather than leaving things scattered around.