Shekhar Kapur directed, Jemima Khan written ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ promises a quirky and very exciting ensemble cast and a look at the age-old custom of arranged or “assisted” marriage within a Pakistani household. The cross-cultural film is premiering at TIFF this year, with the cast in attendance for its premiere. However, does it deliver the comic and heartfelt story that is suggested from its trailer?
Cath (Emma Thompson) and Aisha Khan (Shabana Azmi) are neighbours and the former has always been a part of the latter’s cultural and religious events. As such, their offspring Kazim (Shazad Latif) and Zoe (Lily James) are also great friends. When Kazim is set up with a woman in Pakistan, Zoe decides to follow how journey into the “assisted” marriage in a video documentary, attempting to capture real feelings. She uncovers some interesting angles and rituals after being a little taken aback about this way of settling down. However, does it all end in a happy ever after?
Firstly, with this film being Kapur’s debut in the romantic comedy genre, it manages to really make a mark in the way that the characters are portrayed but more so making the most of every single actor who has a significant role, big or small. Kapur is known for other genres and perfecting them but with ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’, his passion for this one is there for all to see. It comes across as an easy watch, never making the audience feel that the story is forced or that any scene or character is out of place. The comic moments tie in seamlessly with the serious ones, making the audience’s experience of the film light and breezy – just what one would want from a cross-cultural film with many well-known and seasoned actors included.
James as Zoe is completely perfectly cast and she brings out an often awkward character with such ease. Thompson plays her mother and is excellent in the comic scenes, often breaking up the more serious moments or coming in and providing a freshness to some of the culturally heavy or poignant scenes. Latif’s handsome demeanour does steal the show a lot of the time and his chemistry with Sajal Aly who plays his fiance and later wife are particularly interesting. Aly herself gives a decent performance which is colourful and with impact. Azmi is also fantastic as Aisha, and her chemistry with Jeff Mirza is great. Her scenes with Thompson are also so fresh and show great friendship.
‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ could very easily have lost its way as a story in favour of the pretty amazing list of actors which are cast in it. It, however, does nothing of the sort. It gives a somewhat realistic view of interesting themes aside from arranged marriages such as inter-racial relationships, an intertwining of cultures as well as the cultural and generational differences of the same and different generations. The film manages to touch on all of these things and also gives the audience a feeling of real emotions and boundaries which still exist today even though one may feel that today’s generation “have it easier”, so to speak.
The film is worth a watch as the light-hearted and comical way in which it portrays its story is something quite extraordinary, and it does have some thing or another that most viewers will identify with.