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Meena, a 12-year-old living in a mining village in the English Midlands in 1972, is the daughter of Indian parents who've come to England to give her a better life. This idyllic existence is upset by the arrival in the village of Anita Rutter and her dysfunctional family. Anita is 14, blonde and beautiful - exactly what Meena thinks she wants to be. She becomes part of Anita's world, but events do not run smoothly. Meena's growing up - and that brings plenty of changes. Written by
Slight but amusing and engaging little film that benefits from being quite a personal affair
In the small Black Country village Tollington, the Kumars are the only Asian family in the area and are very aware that they have to work twice as hard to get anywhere. However for their daughter Meena, all she wants to do is dream and be popular. Bored with live she gets hooked when she spots the striking blonde Anita. Despite warnings that she's a "bad un", Meena tries to become friends with Anita and, during a sweet shop robbery, they do. However their friendship is not an easy one even if it is the main one of Meena's formative years.
Having spent the last decade in the English Midlands I must confess that I have yet to do anything but wince when I hear a thick Brummie or Black Country accent; so when this film opened with the characters all speaking in it my initial urge was to switch it off. However I stuck with it and quickly got used to it (in the same way as one gets used to a sore leg, it is never comfortable but you just move on). Told through the eyes of a child, the story has nice touches that might be exaggerated but they help the narrative work. Perhaps it does try too hard to be liked by the audience but it still combines the humour well with a story that becomes more interesting as it goes on. The personal nature of the screenplay means that it is insightful and convincing but it does it with good humour. Huseyin's direction is solid nothing too special but professional enough to do the job.
The cast take to the material well. Although I would cross the road to avoid her voice again, Uppal leads the film well; her narration is a bit overused but generally she makes it work. Her actual performance is better and she grows up well across the film. The support cast is deep in talent who mostly do well. Bhaskar, Syal and Djalili are amusing if not totally present for the comedy roots. Dharker is a stunning woman and a good actress she adds a bit of depth to a simple role. Brewster has less of a character to work with but she is fine for what she is asked to do. Beesley is supposedly a bump to increase investment but doesn't do much more than that. Burke and Williams are OK and add a bit of class to the edges.
Overall this is quite a nice little film that is greatly helped by the very personal material that comes through well into the script. The cast are mixed but the main ones are good enough to deliver the mix of comedy and convincing drama. The accents are a bit hard to take for the whole 90 minutes but generally I was able to get into the characters and the story enough to be engaging and a little charmed by it.
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