My Son The Fanatic is something of a rarity: a homegrown film which actually reflects the racial and cultural melting pot that is late 1990s Britain. Writer Hanif Kureishi - - who penned My Beautiful Laundrette and has here adapted his own short story - - clearly has a talent for writing characters of different ages, nationalities and beliefs, and tackles the thorny issue of the rise of religious fundamentalism among young British Asians with an admirable lightness of touch.
The initial comic twist lies with the father, an enthusiastic exponent of western liberal values, while the son is busy selling his own possessions, organising bedroom prayer meetings and inviting visiting holy men to stay. But as the film progresses, the comedy takes a back seat to the growing love affair between Parveez and prostitute Bettina, who he often drives to `jobs'.
Australian actress Rachel Griffiths convincingly mixes resilience and fragility in her role; yet in terms of performances My Son The Fanatic belongs to Indian veteran Puri. He's outstanding as a man undergoing a mid-life crisis, realising that for years he's put others before himself and done what was expected of him in his attempts to fit into British society. His choice is a stark and difficult one - - Bettina or his family and community.
Perhaps the only real disappointment here is that the film can't quite shake the look of a TV movie, despite the obviously careful attention to lighting and composition by its director, Udayan Prasad (Brothers In Trouble). Thankfully, though, the ending doesn't provide any pat resolutions to Parveez's predicament.
Excellent performances by Puri and Griffiths give credibility to an unlikely love story. Never descending into worthiness, My Son The Fanatic is funny, touching and mournful. An honest film that cleverly captures a culturally diverse Britain.
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