out of Five
Running time: 103
Enjoyable, emotionally engaging sequel with a witty script and terrific performances from Om Puri and newcomer Aqib Khan, though it's let down by some erratic editing decisions.
What's it all about?
Directed by Andy DeEmmony, West Is West is a sequel to the 1999 hit East Is East, which was set in 1971 Salford and centred on Pakistani father George (Om Puri), his English wife Ella (Linda Bassett) and their seven children. The sequel picks up five years later, with George deciding to take his misbehaving 13-year-old son Sajid (Aqib
Khan) to Pakistan in order to teach him a lesson after he gets caught shoplifting and truanting (though he's only bunking off because he's terrified of the daily racist bullying at school).
Though initially resistant, Sajid begins to acclimatise to Pakistan after he befriends a goatherd his own age (Raj Bhansali as Zaid) and gets taken under the wing of local holy man Pir Naseem (Nadim Sawalha). Meanwhile, George gets more than he bargained for when he's confronted with the wife (Ila Arun as Basheera) and daughters he abandoned more than 30 years earlier.
Newcomer Aqib Khan is terrific as Sajid, displaying a neat line in foul-mouthed one-liners (“You can fuck off an' all, Mowgli!”) and portraying Sajid's gradual turnaround in convincing fashion – the scene where Pir Naseem lets him run around some excavated ruins is one of several well written and nicely directed character moments. Om Puri is equally good as George, delivering a performance that's unafraid to show why George is difficult to like, but is ultimately extremely moving as we come to understand him.
The film isn't as concerned with out-and-out comedy as its predecessor but the witty script crackles with good dialogue and the emotional confrontation scenes are genuinely moving.
That said, the film is badly let down by some erratic editing decisions that suggest there were a lot of scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor. At first this seems like a bold move (the sudden jump to Pakistan is jarring but effective), but the effect on later scenes is sloppy and confusing, most notably in a badly rushed sandstorm sequence and a bizarre conflation of scenes where one minute Ella and Basheera are at each other's throats and the next they're reaching a tearful understanding.
Editing issues aside, West Is West is an enjoyable, well written and emotionally engaging sequel with strong performances and some striking location work. Recommended.