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Cross My Heart (2003)

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A witty but yet touching and accurate portrayal of a mixed race relationship
23 May 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Ajay and Marsee have been going out for three years and, when you've been with someone for that long, it is time to take stock, you know – tell the family. Of course it isn't made easier by the fact that Ajay is Indian and Marsee is black. Introducing her for the first time to his Uncle Vikram, Ajay is rather shocked to find that Vikram's reaction is to scream for 10 seconds before dropping down dead. In his will, his Uncle has left Ajay the shop – but was worried that he wasn't "Indian" enough and has left a condition in the will that Ajay must convince his three Aunts that he is "Indian" enough. The test goes well (mainly because he lies and gives them the answers they want to hear) but then they ask about his girlfriend, oh and, can they meet her.

Although it is common to view racism as something only white people do, while minority groups excluding others is merely part of "community" and their culture, I can confirm that sometimes it can be the reverse. Having tried (and sadly failed) in a mixed marriage (white/black), I experienced first hand how ethnic families are keen to preserve the community and reduce mixing – hence I was shunned by my wife's Nigerian family throughout our 8 year relationship. Anyway, I don't mean to dump on you but I just wanted to set the context as to why I enjoyed this little film and felt it worked well on several levels.

On one level it is a comedy that sets a nice comic tone throughout and it made for a nice frame for the story that is nicely observed but never takes itself too seriously or drags the tone down. The film also paints the challenge to Ajay to follow his heart versus the desire to please his family – knowing really he cannot do both. The film then takes this to poke fun at the norms of Indian culture (the arranged dates, the obsession with doctors etc) and it does this well. However, while doing these things it doesn't forget the two main characters and the ending is typical of this – giving us the solution (with Marsee's little smile) without giving us a sentimental ending that would come over as too mushy. The whole thing works well as a short story, a look at cultural resistance and a wry series of digs at Indian culture.

The actors really help the film do all this. Chani is entirely natural and convincing in the lead role and I liked his performance. Although she has limited time Okonedo is still great – very natural and making us understand her emotions with mere looks. The support cast proclaim the comic slant on the delivery as it includes two stand-up artists in the form of Djalili and Panjabi.

Overall this may have had more relevance to me than some others but it should still entertain most viewers as it is interesting, engaging and funny – working on several levels even for the casual viewer. The cast are good and the delivery gets the tone just right, producing an enjoyable short film that is well worth seeing.

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