Dir: Nigel Cole. UK. 2012. 93mins
Sex – or lack of it – is at the core of Ayub Khan Din’s delightfully performed rom-com, as a young British Asian couple have to deal with the realities of family life in the aftermath of their wedding. The success of Ayub Kahn Din’s film East Is East could point to popularity in the UK, while the warm honesty of the performances bode well for other markets, though it may be too familiar and stagey to properly break out.
There are also some delightful laugh-out-loud moments and the film may well strike a chord with British Asian communities.
All In Good Time (the title is oddly unmemorable) has undergone many incarnations over the years. It started life as a 1963 play written by Bill Naughton, and subsequently adapted for film for the 1966 movie The Family Way. Ayub Khan Din updated it for the theatre and gave it an Asian spin in 2007 with the title of Rafta Rafta, where it won an Olivier Award for Best New Comedy during its run at the National Theatre.
The film screened at the Glasgow Film Festival and is set to open in the UK in May.
It was directed on stage by Nicolas Hytner, with Harish Patel and Meera Syal in the key roles of Eeshwar and Lopa Dutt. Patel and Syal reprise their roles in this film adaptation, bringing with them a natural depth and subtlety to the roles based on their extensive time on stage together. They are the glue that binds the film together, though the performances by Reece Ritchie (The Lovely Bones) and Amara Karan (The Darjeeling Limited, St Trinians) as the young couple drive the story.
Atul (Ritchie) and Vina (Karan) are a modest – but in love – couple who enjoy their wedding, despite for the antics of Atul’s drunkenly enthusiastic father Eeshwar (Patel), whose flailing bhangra dancing and insistence that Atul arm-wrestle him put a dent on things.
And when its finally time for the your couple to head upstairs in the Dutt’s small terraced Bolton house for their first night together it isn’t just nerves that come into play. The proximity of his parents – in the room next door – and his brother’s childish pranks (he sabotages the bed) mean that his lovely virgin bride remains just that.
The couple, though, are off to Goa on honeymoon so put the night’s lack of action behind them. But when they arrive at the airport they find the company handling their holiday has collapsed they have to return to the Dutt family home to try and make the best of their situation. Prying family members and gossipy neighbours (as well as the thin walls and claustrophobic atmosphere) conspire to keep the couple from consummating their marriage, and Atul finds that he just can’t perform…leading to doubts about his relationship with Vina.
Though the sexual tribulations of Atul and Vina are the spine of the story, in truth the heart of All In Good Time is the relationship between Eeshwar and Lopa, a couple who arrived in the North of England as young people, struggled to build a life and have a pride in their current position. Eeshwar is an ebullient and bombastic character (a suitably larger-than-life role for the charismatic Harish Patel), keen to stress his achievements to his mild-mannered newly married son, while Lopa (a gentle but oddly profound performance by Myra Syal) is a compassionate core of the family, but also able to toss out a few barbs of her own.
There are moments when the tragi-comic elements (mainly involving Lopa and Eeshwar, and a long-lost friend of his) don’t quite gel with the rom-com aspects, and at times Syal and Patel dominate proceedings (purely because of their experience with the roles) at the expense of Reece Ritchie and Amara Karan (who is especially good). But there are also some delightful laugh-out-loud moments and the film may well strike a chord with British Asian communities as well as those simply out for a well-written dramatic-comedy.
Production companies: Left Bank Pictures
International sales: StudioCanal, www.studiocanal.com
Producers: Andy Harries, Suzanne Mackie
Executive producers: Will Clarke, Jenny Borgars
Screenplay: Ayub Khan Din, based on his play Rafta Rafta
Cinematography: David Higgs
Editor: Michael Parker
Production designer: Cristina Casali
Music: Niraj Chag
Main cast: Meera Syal. Harish Patel, Reece Ritchie, Amara Karan, Arsher Ali, Neet Mohan, Shelley King, Amith Rahman