My Son The Fanatic Movie Review
In "My Son the Fanatic," a Pakistani cabbieis forced to face a moral and cultural crisis after 25 years of assimilationinto English life in London.
His son has broken off an engagement to a police chief'sdaughter -- a move the family saw as a step up into white society eventhough their future in-laws belittled them -- and has joined a fundamentalistMuslim sect, questioning almost everything about his father's Westernizedlifestyle, especially his habit of ferrying prostitutes for fares.
A humble and reserved man, Parvez (Om Puri) is at a losswhat to do when his family starts to break apart in the wake of this religiousupheaval. He begins spending more time in his cab than ever before justto get away, especially after the son offers room and board to his sect'sleader -- who takes over the household and regulates Parvez' wife to practicalservitude.
Estranged from both his son (over philosophical differences)and his wife (over marital problems stemming from his absence and distance),Parvez turns for solace to Bettina (Rachel Griffiths), one of his clientprostitutes who has fallen for him for no other reason than his deep andheartfelt kindness.
With frustration down every avenue, Parvez begins to examinehis life -- and he beings to drink.
His son becomes sullen extremist, telling him "You'veswallowed white and Jewish propaganda," and Parvez begins to wonderhow much of what the boy says is true. His wife has becomes complacentto the Muslim cleric and his entourage. Bettina, who pretends to be a happy-go-luckygirl (although she isn't very good at it) continues to turn tricks, givingParvez very conflicted emotions on that front. Then there's Mr. Schitz(Stellan Skarsgard), a boisterous creep of a German businessman and a frequentfare, who tips big but is quite ridiculing to Parvez, calling him "littleman," requesting Bettina's services night after night and encouraginghim to live a more free lifestyle.
His inner conflict comes to a head when his son's activistgroup begins attacking street walkers, putting Parvez in the middle betweenhis son and his unlikely lover.
"My Son the Fanatic" has a light touch of humor,but it turns on turmoil, not unlike "My Beautiful Launderette,"screenwriter Hanif Kureishi's breakthrough film. But while the story isunpredictable, perceptive and strongly-directed (by British TV veteranUdayan Prasad), there isn't much here for the uninitiated. Unless you havesome special draw to the cultural conflicts facing these characters, it'sjust not all that interesting -- aside from the understated but astuteperformances of Puri (quot;The Ghost and the Darkness") and Griffiths("Hilary and Jackie"), who continues to prove her Oscar-worthinessafter losing out to Judi Dench at last year's Academy Awards.