Susan Granger’s review of “MY SON THE FANATIC” (Miramax Films)
This is an unconventional love story about a Pakistani immigrant who strays from his wife and the stability of his home when he falls in love with a British prostitute. But what makes it even more compelling is that screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (“My Beautiful Laundrette”) satirically reverses the conservative, middle-aged father/freedom-loving son rebellion axiom, giving it an unexpected twist. Acclaimed Indian actor Om Puri (“Gandhi,” “City of Joy”) is superb and utterly convincing as a Scotch-drinking, cricket-loving, jazz enthusiast who has spent 25 years driving a taxi in industrial Bradford, England. He is worried about his beloved son (Akbar Kurtha) who has broken his engagement to the Caucasian daughter of a British police detective and is selling off his “capitalist pig” possessions as part of a religious conversion to militant, fundamentalist Islam, with all of its anti-semitic overtones, in order to find personal identity after many years of being made to feel like an outsider. Directed by Udayan Prasad with a cast that includes Rachel Griffiths (Oscar-nominated for “Hilary and Jackie”) and Skellan Skarsgard (“Good Will Hunting”), the film probes universal conflicts, using disparate lives to examine the broad moral themes of love versus duty and happiness versus personal sacrifice – in addition to the racial and cultural problems inherent in assimilation. It gets a bit melodramatic towards the conclusion but, on the whole, it’s quite engaging, pursing the point that “After a certain age, there’s no point in saying ‘No’ to everything.” On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “My Son the Fanatic” is a bittersweet, compassionate 7. It’s engaging, off-beat art house fare but, for those with auditory problems, it’s often difficult to decipher the North London burr and the Pakistani accent.