When West Meets East
"My Son the Fanatic" lasts just 87 minutes and that is its problem because this is an ambitious movie which whilst working with two main storylines has lots of little storylines going on and they don't get the time to breath. But despite this "My Son the Fanatic" will entertain thanks to two strong performances from Om Puri and Rachel Griffiths who fill their characters with depth and colour which makes them interesting and frankly amusing. It is why "My Son the Fanatic" despite having depth which is more apparent on subsequent viewings is firstly remembered as a comedy.
25 years after leaving Pakistan Parvez (Om Puri) is living a solid but uneventful life in Britain with his wife and son. He works as a taxi driver where amongst his clients is Bettina (Rachel Griffiths) a prostitute who he constantly ferries around and his son Farid (Akbar Kurtha) is due to marry the daughter of a chief inspector. That is until Farid decides to abandon his father's western ways and embraces fundamentalism leading to conflict between father and son and his friendship with Bettina becoming deeper.
As I said there is actually too much going on in "My Son the Fanatic" as whilst the central storylines which revolve around Parvez and his relationship firstly with his son and then with prostitute Bettina are obvious the sub plots which provide the depth get lost in the crowd. I say that because here is a movie which whilst obviously tackling cultural aspects and shows elements of racism almost tackles subjects of freedom, aspiration, bigotry and a whole lot more. But it ends up too much for a movie which comes in under the 90 minute mark with only the two obvious storylines really working.
But as I also said "My Son the Fanatic" is still entertaining thanks to the two main performances. Om Puri is such a fantastic actor who brings both a solemn depth to the role of Parvez but also the humour of someone desperate to fit in. The opening scene where he is eager to impress the Chief Inspector is pure comedy gold because of Om Puri whose enthusiasm is infectious. But Puri is matched by Rachel Griffiths who plays Bettina with that touch of Julie Walters about her, making her comical but with that sweet tender and very human side. And it is a good job that these two are so on the ball because if it wasn't for their timing and expressive performances that many scenes would misfire despite good performances from a supporting cast which includes Akbar Kurtha, Gopi Desai and Stellan SkarsgÃ¥rd.
What this all boils down to is that "My Son the Fanatic" is an entertaining movie which has both good performances and a good storyline. But because it tries to do too much in less than 90 minutes it is the performances of Om Puri and Rachel Griffiths which end up carrying the movie.