This sounds like a BBC Kitchen Sink Drama of the week or an early Mike Leigh TV-movie (in Leigh's pre-Naked days), and indeed would end up being just that if it weren't for the fact that East is East is delightfully funny. As the tragedy of a family being torn apart by Muslim upbringing clashing with Christian ideals, East is East journeys further into the realm of absolute absurdity.
This clash starts when George wishes his son Nazir (Ian Aspinsall) to marry a woman he has never met. He gives him a robe and a watch with his name in Arabic on it, expecting this to compensate for the loss, and when Nazir flees from the altar, George disowns him.
Not having realized what we do from the get go (that, in our Western perspective, arranged marriages really suck eggs), George betroths two more of his sons to girls that make Martha Stewart look beautiful. He tells his wife late at night, and one son accidentally overhears this, and the family disintegrates from there.
The main problem with East is East is that it cannot decide whether to be a comedy or a serious film. Almost constantly, it flip-flops between serious moments that maek you groan at how melodramatic they are and not-so-serious moments that allow you to laugh at the absurdity of a situation that is not absurd in the slightest. Rather than picking a particular side to go with, director Damien O'Donnell chooses to attempt to take both the high road and the low road, and ends up going nowhere.
In the end, East is East is much more comic that dramatic, if only because Damien O'Donnell and writer Ayu Khan-Din conspire to turn out a movie that is jam packed with ineffectual drama. To a culture such as either the American or the British, which has been saturated with how being Protestant is so much better than being Muslim (and who says that films don't display a religious preference), East is East is just the same old shtick with a few new jokes.
Run time: 96 mins
In Theaters: Friday 14th April 2000
Box Office Worldwide: $28.2M
Distributed by: Miramax Films
Production compaines: Film4, BBC, Assassin Films
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Fresh: 25 Rotten: 7
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Director: Damien O'Donnell
Producer: Leslee Udwin
Screenwriter: Ayub Khan-Din
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