Pakistani taxi-driver Parvez and prostitute Bettina find themselves trapped in the middle when Islamic fundamentalists decide to clean up their local town.Pakistani taxi-driver Parvez and prostitute Bettina find themselves trapped in the middle when Islamic fundamentalists decide to clean up their local town.Pakistani taxi-driver Parvez and prostitute Bettina find themselves trapped in the middle when Islamic fundamentalists decide to clean up their local town.
It starts off making you think that this is going to be a comedy about a social-ladder-climbing father undermined by his son's discovery and subsequent rapture of Islamic fundamentalism. When re-viewing the consistency of the tones and hues, it seems that most scenes are being seen through the main character's (Parvez) eyes. And he turns out to be the most unreliable of narrators -- a literary device difficult to translate into film. In most of the darker and smoky hues, Parvez seems to be a warm, loving, tolerant, supportive, and protective soul.
In the lighter-toned scenes, we learn that Parvez is actually is clueless to who he is and how he is perceived. The fact is that he is a pathetic failure as a husband, father, and "career" man -- a 25-year taxi driver in a poor town in England (Does anyone know what city/town this is supposed to be? It was unclear to me.) where the cab drivers serve as a conduit between prostitutes and their clients. Throughout the movie, he sinks further into the throes of an alcoholic depression. He is an affable and engaging drunk, but a drunk nonetheless.
His son's rejection of his depressed and drunken father manifests itself in turning to Islamic Fundamentalism. His wife tries to awaken him as to what is going on, but to no avail. Pervez's sodden eyes sees life only in his own terms. Pervez sees the holy man as a fraud, and thus invents a scene in his mind that everyone else denies, played in near-total darkness, where the holy man asks him for immigration help from his (actually non-existent) political connections with the Fingerhuts, who despise him.
Someone else correctly pointed out that the son's adulation of Ayatollah Khomeni is inconsistent with the Pakistani fundamentalist sects that populate Karachi. This is the one well-lit scene where falsehood prevails, but I think that was just a fact-checking error.
As he sinks deeper, Pervez conjures up a loving relationship with his favorite whore, the reality of which is depicted in the final scenes as the credits roll.
The movie was never really about his son at all. His life was never really about the love he invested in his family at all. It is about a disintegration of a once-noble soul due to depression and alcoholism, and how the world looks through his forgiving eyes.
This is a fascinating study in duality, but you need to watch it twice to see it that way. Bravura performances by Puri, the actress who played the wife, and Griffiths as the multi-wigged prostitute are a joy to behold. There are slow and murky patches, but worth sticking with as a fascinating exploration into the culture clashes and reality blurring characteristic of alcoholic depression -- a disease with an acutely higher incidence in the UK among Asian immigrants.
Well worth watching.
- Jul 13, 2002