East Is East


Directed by: Damien O’Donnell
Written by:Ayub Khan-Din
Starring: Om Puri, Linda Bassett, Jordan Routledge, Archie Panjabi, Emil Mawa, Chis Bisson
Released: June 8, 2000
Grade: A-

George Khan (Puri) originated from Pakistan but now lives in England with his second wife, an Englishwoman named Ella (Bassett).  From his first marriage, George has six sons and a single daughter.  He only credits himself with five sons as one walked out on his wedding day after refusing an arranged marriage and was disowned from the family.

George is content in England - he his proud of his religious heritage, owns a small fish and chip shop and is a respected member of the community.  Trouble brews however when he sets up another two of his sons for an arranged marriage without consultation and the two brides-to-be are not exactly what you call “beauties”.

Ella wants no part of this but George is very determined and wants his children to marry within their religion in tradition with his ancestors.  It’s a ticking timebomb and when the two sons find out, the family disintegrates.

Winner of the British Academy Award for best British film of 1999, East Is East is a supreme mix of drama and comedy that hits all the right notes.  It begins as a riotous comedy but as the film develops, a darker layer is revealed (ala American Beauty).

Puri and Bassett turn in two of the best performances seen all year.  Puri is wonderful with his Pakistani accent and must set a cinematic record for the number of uses of the word “bloody”.  Bassett, with similarities to Brenda Bleythn’s character in Secrets and Lies, plays the quiet wife who you just know will break out of her shell and stand up to her husband.

Adapted from a play written by Ayub Khan-Din, the screen version of East is East is a touching production that is deserved of the critical acclaim it has been receiving.  Breaking fresh ground, it’s a change from the tiring, similar screenplays that have been circulating the cinemas in recent weeks.