The East Midlands in the 1970s. Twelve-year-old Meena (newcomer Chandeep Uppal) is the daughter of the only Punjabi family in Tollington. Escaping from her traditional home life into the make-believe world of her diary, Meena starts to idolise new neighbour Anita (Anna Brewster), a brassy blonde who represents everything about the world of flares, glam rock and teenage hormones that Meena wants to be part of. It's a friendship that'll mark Meena's coming of age as she realises that not everything about British culture is as brilliant as she first thought.
Handling the comedy with a deft touch yet never flinching from the racism of the period, Meera Syal's script (based on her own bestselling novel) walks a treacherous tightrope with some aplomb. A little more serious than the crowd-pleasing Bend It Like Beckham, to which it'll inevitably be compared, it perhaps lacks the feelgood punch needed to ring those box-office tills - though Uppal's treat of a lead performance will delight anyone who gives it a try.
More problematic is the nagging feeling of déjà vu - East Is East covered much the same territory in 1999, while The Guru played the culture clash card just a couple of months ago. But then a lack of originality has never stopped Hollywood productions raking in the punters, so why hold it against a plucky little Brit flick with plenty else to offer? And it doesn't hurt to have the seasoned likes of Kathy Burke and Sanjeev Bhaskar supporting the juvenile leads.
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