Saturday, November 10, 2012

All In Good Time

Surround Sound Ecstasy

Based on a play written by the late Bill Naughton, who wrote Alfie, All in Good Time may not seem like much with its East Meets East, West Meets West treatment by writer Ayub Khan-Din, where the usual clash of cultures and class rear its ugly head to disrupt the lives of its unfortunate victims. However, while this aspect of the story might seem a little cliche, it is the powerhouse performance put in by the leads that make this quite the surprise package, with a subplot coming out of almost nowhere to provide an unsuspecting sucker punch, in addition to crafting a fabulous father-son tale.

A good first third of the film centers around the wedding day and night of Atul Dutt (Reece Ritchie) and Vina Patel (Amara Karan), who got married at a sports club, to the pride of the Dutts - Eeshwar (Harish Patel) and Lopa (Meera Syal) to finally see their son get married. But Eeshwar, as the father of the household, somehow almost always desires to steal the thunder and the limelight, where in his chauvinistic ways, and state of drunkenness during the celebrations, we discover that he's quite overbearing as a father, and this adds a strain to an already estranged relationship with his son Atul. Things get worse when Atul and Vina's honeymoon plans go up in smoke, and have to put up living with his parents, where Eeshwar seemed to always get in the couple's way, and Atul's nerves, which in turn start to accentuate cracks in Atul and Vina's budding marriage.

This naturally does not bode well for the newlyweds, whose unconsummated marriage slowly becomes the talk of family members, and then that of the town, since nobody in any way would like their relationship to be under the scrutiny of both family and strangers. While there's a healthy dose of comedy coming from the clash of family values and expectations, there's also balance achieved in keeping it dramatic and emotional with a number of powerful scenes that examine relationships in closer detail. Harish Patel excelled in his role as the portly father who has to learn how to reconnect with his son, while Reece Ritchie provided that somewhat love-hate emotion that you'd love for him to buckle down and stand up for himself.

Directed by Nigel Cole, who was at the helm of films such as Made in Dagenham, he seemed to enjoy the contrast between the warm hues of the crammed interiors of the Dutts' home, and the larger, colder world outside that's ever ready to pounce on, or rumour monger against the family, especially with its three nosy neighbours down the streets of Bolton. Fans of Bollywood cinema will also have a field day in identify the multitude of posters and snippets of film on display since Atul works in a theatre as an assistant projectionist. But a typical Bollywood inspired film this is not, despite an all Indian cast, though it's easy for anyone to mistakenly identify this movie as such.

And what's likely to be missed or glossed over, is what would make the film for anyone. If you dismiss this as light entertainment, you're missing what would be a powerful suggestion that added a layer that's more than meets the eye, and so apt for post-film discussion. It deals with suggestions about why Eeshwar and Atul find it almost natural to disconnect, and handles with finesse the thought that the Patels have about Atul's sexuality. Without watching the film to its very end, it's easy to jump into the wrong conclusions, especially when Eeshwar defends himself against Lopa's account of their own marriage and honeymoon vis-a-vis that of their son's.

The ending's deliberately left ambiguous if you'd think about it carefully rather than to take it at face value, and even if the latter, there's already two sides to interpreting what had transpired. This little film, well acted and with a layered story, is what lifts this film beyond the colours and the celebrations, into something that's more powerful emotionally, with that cheeky glint in the eye for those who caught its subtleness. A definite recommendation, and it could be a surprise entry in my books as one of the best this year.

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