Gorgeous photography and an elusive storytelling style combine to make this dark dramatic thriller both gripping and rather frustrating. Without some understanding of the nature of honour killing in Britain, it will be difficult to make much sense out of the plot. But the atmospheric filmmaking helps make up for this, and it also covers over an uneven central performance.
The story opens in an isolated trailer park on the edge of a Yorkshire town, where young Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) is in hiding with her Scottish boyfriend Aaron (Connor McCarron). But as she quietly heads to work, there are several men on her trail. Laila's brother Zaheer (Ali Ahmad) is just back from Pakistan and is tracking her down with three friends, while her father (Wasim Zakir) has hired Tony (Gary Lewis) and his friend Barry (Barry Nunney) to find her. Clearly, her family wants her back, and Laila knows they're not planning to welcome her with open arms. So she and Aaron make a run for it.
Shot and edited in an observational style, directors Daniel and Matthew Wolfe don't make it very easy for the audience, never quite explaining what's happening and letting the actors speak in mumbled thick dialect. This makes it tricky to engage with any of the characters, especially the inexpressive Ahmed, who is better in the quiet scenes than she is when required to display emotion. She does capture a strong sense of desperation, as Laila is literally fighting for her life. It's clear that each character has his or her own story within the bigger narrative, but working these out sometimes feels like a chore, even with terrific actors on board like Lewis, Nichola Burley (as Laila's boss) and Kate Dickie (as Aaron's mum).
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The film's setup is simple. Dre (Taye Diggs) and Sidney (Sanaa Lathan) have been very close friends since childhood, when hip-hop was just coming into its own. Dre is a well-known hip-hop record producer who is unhappy with his job and is about to get married. Sidney is a magazine editor who is working on a book about the origins of hip-hop and cannot find the right man to fit her groove. She is of course secretly in love with Dre because he is the only man who can connect with her and her music, and Dre is secretly in love with Sidney because she is the only woman who will support his dreams. Both Dre and Sidney have problems with the other's initial choice of spouse (Nicole Ari Parker and Boris Kodjoe).
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