Dir. Shan Khan. U.K. 2014.

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At the time this film was screened to the press, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) was in the news with the first conviction been sought. The traditional values and mores of non-national cultures in Britain where conflicting with normative Western ideals, has not really been a huge territory for film makers here.  The differences have usually been given the trite humour associated with East is East and Bhaji on the Beach. The gradual dissipation of political correctness has paved the way for the themes of this film, alongside the recent swathe of dissent at mass immigration, so the timeliness of this piece is right on the money.  Watching can be hard work. There are one or two moments which are truly repulsive, but this is no doubt done purposely. It fits within the macabre notions of grooming and Asian chauvinism more than the belief that hard working Asian families provide an example of hard work and collective values paying off.

The fears addressed by the film are backed up by UN stats on honour killings in the civilised world, in the UK as many as 12 a year.

There are elements of the film that are purely unbelievable: the logistics involved in finding a missing person in the unfriendly soup of London (the demographics are inconceivable, even to the government), the social political backstory of the Bounty Hunter played by Paddy Considine (doing a Ray Winstone impersonation) and the characters of the mother and elder brother are given an escalated evil sinisterism that would be open to discovery within a tight, judgmental community whether that be the Metropolitan Police or within the residential network in Southall, London.  That said, the film is often brilliant for its bravery and in showing a dark side of the post imperial multicultural dream, which we all realise by now - is far from the truth.

The focus is that of a runaway, a Punjabi girl who has defied her family, overshadowed by the fear and feelings of a dead patriarch and has opted for a life of her own with a man she has chosen.  The story design follows an anti-plot structure with the linear format done away with, the beginning and ending sitting at book ends of  the story arc, but this does not prove as much a distraction as it could have.  The bit part characters on the train from south to north of England are realistic enough and cause a shudder - here the underclass and fears they resonate not done as well since Eden Lake - the superior British horror film. The strongest and most gut churning of the players though are the mother and elder brother, Kazim (played by Faraz Ayub). In a shocking sequence these two Shakespearean baddies kill the girl, Mona (Aiysha Hart)stow her away in a trunk with a view to  having her done with in the nearby woods (the woods scene is terrific).

Cue Paddy who has in his nasty past been a White Power Supremist/National Front supporter to sniff her out in the big metropolis and bring her home. Little do the larger than life baddies know, but Bounty is on a course of redemption, as sometimes is the way for hard men in movies and he has his own demons to face via the catalyst choice he makes in Mona's survival. There is thankfully an absence of sexual tension between these two, which is fantastic and refreshing. The mid-section face-off between the male leads is scary and confusing: Kazim has a vision of the future of Britain and it is an all Asian utopia with the whites as minority, though in some areas of London this is far from a future vision, it is usually predominant in areas the white middle class avoid after 6pm. The major cultural flaw is that his bent on superiority would only have its conduit in the public sector; hence the relative ignorance of aim in the multicultural police force, a similar story set in the financial district just would not exist, nor would the impetus.

Still though, a powerful, modern drama with some strong characterisations of the current zeitgeist.

On general cinema release from 4 April, on DVD from 28 April 2014.

Gail Spencer

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