West Is West
Review by Jack Foley
IT’S been almost 12 years since East Is East became one of the most popular British films of all time, so you can’t really accuse its sequel West Is West of being a cynical cash-in.
But while certainly intriguing, Andy DeEmmony’s follow-up looks unlikely to enjoy the same success as its predecessor and suffers from a curiously mixed tone.
Its central protagonist, George Khan (once again played by Om Puri), also struggles to gain our sympathy even though, by the film’s end, events are designed (or manipulated) to offer him redemption.
Set five years after East Is East, the film finds George struggling to cope with the tearaway instincts of his bullied youngest son, Sajid (Aqib Khan), and feeling guilty about his life choices thus far.
Out of desperation, George resolves to take him to Pakistan so that Sajid can gain a better understanding of his heritage and father, while George himself can atone for his past sins.
Once there, however, George finds his authority undermined once again by his first wife and another of his sons, who is struggling to find a wife due to the legacy George has left.
Sajid, meanwhile, falls under the paternal spell of wise elder Nadim (Pir Naseem) and begins to find his place in the scheme of things.
To be fair, DeEmmony’s film has some interesting observations to make about cultural differences in the ’70s and dysfunctional family dynamics, while drawing on engaging performances from its principal players.
Puri’s George continues to be an extremely complex central figure, while young Khan acquits himself well and bring lots of charm and confidence to Sajid.
But the tone of the film often feels uneven in the way that it shifts from broad comedy and heightened drama. Not all of the humour works, either, given that it resorts to obvious stereotypes or pronunciation issues.
And as strong as Puri is in the central role of George, he remains a difficult – you could say impossible – character to like no matter how hard the film belatedly tries to make you do so.
In trying to do so, the film neglects to really flesh out some of the more interesting support, and it could have benefited from more time with Linda Bassett and Naseem to really understand their feelings and decision making.
Indeed, the poignant conclusion owes more to Khan’s emotional journey than it does to George’s despite taking the more obvious rites-of-passage steps.
West Is West is therefore a curious offering. Watchable but conflicted it just about wins you over but lacks the lasting impact of its predecessor. And given that the producers are promising a third film, it also begs the question of where it has left to go.
Running time: 102mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 20, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Om Puri interview
- Aqib Khan interview