Issac's Review of East Is East
East Is East(1999)
Aka. FISH & CHIP, a UK film whose plot hinges on a Pakistani family living in UK, the patriarch is a traditional chauvinist whose only tenet is to do everything in Pakistani muslim ways, while the mother is English, with 7 children, the cultural collision and marriage-defiant headaches begin to aggravate the family, and finally ends with a drolly amusing farce.
From Irish director Damien Oâ(TM)Donnell (his debut feature), this film emanates a great sense of humour (never pull it off overhead) and a whiff of theatrical commotion when the storyline needs it, supplying career-best leading roles from both Om Puri, who is deft in embodying himself into a highly unloveable character even without any preach-the-converted statement, and Linda Bassett as the chafing-yet-united parent, imaginably with 7 offspring (6 boys and 1 girl, age ranging from 6 to 25) to coping with, the familial disarray can dissuade many chic couples from children-rearing quandary, not counting there is a bigger hurdle standing in front of them, the religious disparity, Puri is an out-and-out Pakistani, even living in England, has an English wife (which is his second one while his first wife is still living in Pakistan), he rebuffs any discord and claims absolute submission from his family members, as long as he is still the man-of-the-house, even resorting to domestic violence when things are out of his control. As the most-of-the-time pliant, sometimes witty, but complete sympathetic mother, Bassett has her gut to fight back for her children, and her performance does has an effect of sublimating the heightened tension and brings about some excellent empathy which sharply differs from a general comedic tonality. All seven progeny and a handful supporting roles are moulded with distinctive personalities (with many laughable episodes to entertain the viewers).
So, about the aforementioned preach-the-converted argument, the film can be a tint offensive to portray Pakistani people in a quasi-teasing milieu (the two Pakistani maidens are rather wickedly selected), it seems the film is assuming the audience should already taken their stand (against the abominably bigoted father figure), clearly the truth is this fictional approach opts for its own British slant towards the muslim immigrants, it may find its voice in the island, but elsewhere, its acceptance inevitably needs to be tested under the surface of its light-hearted masquerade.
PS: My Oscar entry, Linda Bassett storms at No.6 in the BEST LEADING ACTRESS category.