Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle My Son the Fanatic

By Marjorie Baumgarten

AUGUST 16, 1999: 

D: Udayan Prasad; with Om Puri, Rachel Griffiths, Stellan SkarsgŒrd, Akbar Kurtha, Gopi Desai, Harish Patel. (R, 86 min.)

Cultural and generational conflict provide the backdrop for this unexpected love story. Written by Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid) and based on a short story of his published in The New Yorker, My Son the Fanatic tells the story of a Pakistani family in England. The father Parvez (Puri) has spent 25 years in England, working hard and driving a cab. He's happy to do what life deems necessary in order to provide his wife and son with the things he never had. Much of the time, this requires driving prostitutes around in his cab, but he has developed a laissez-faire attitude about their work and has grown quite fond of one woman named Bettina (Griffiths). As the film opens, Parvez is planning for his son's marriage to the daughter of the local police chief. But soon his son Farid (Kurtha) calls off the marriage, purges his possessions, and begins studying Muslim fundamentalism. Farid tricks his father into allowing a visiting fundamentalist teacher to stay in their home. Soon Farid's study group is waging holy war against the prostitutes, Parvez's wife begins to wonder if anything has been accomplished by coming to England, and Parvez begins a scandalous intimacy with Bettina. This story of cultural and generational conflict is sharply drawn with strong performances and telling vignettes. The clash is so obvious and cyclical, yet no one sees it coming. Parvez is a man caught between his obligations and his desires, but he's also losing track of which is which. Also tinged with lots of sly humor, My Son the Fanatic is a smart and provocative drama about little-observed strangers in strange lands.

3.5 Stars

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