My Son the Fanatic

on June 25, 1999 by Ed Scheid
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   "My Son the Fanatic" was written by Hanif Kureishi ("My Beautiful Laundrette"), who based the screenplay on a short story he wrote for the New Yorker. Like Kureishi's other work, this well-made and perceptive film set in the industrial North of England examines the experiences of outsiders in contemporary Britain. The film's conflict has an unusual twist in that it is the son rather than the father who turns to the conservative traditions.
   Pervez ("City of Joy's" Om Puri) has been content to work as a cab driver since he arrived from Pakistan 25 years ago. He is constantly trying to ingratiate himself with the British. Pervez is shocked to discover that his beloved son Farid (Akbar Kurtha) has turned to conservative Islamic fundamentalism as a way to gain identity after being made to feel an outsider in Britain. Relations between father and son become increasingly strained. The film cleverly shows the cultural difference through music: The father listens to jazz recordings in the cellar while his son listens to Muslim chants. The father/son conflict intensifies when the son invites a conservative Muslim teacher and his entourage to stay in the family home.
   The only person to whom Pervez can confide his mounting disappointments is Bettina ("Hilary and Jackie's" Rachel Griffiths), a prostitute he chauffeurs. Their friendly rapport soon deepens into love.
   Udayan Prasad's atmospheric direction gives a keen feeling of the differences between the cultural groups in contemporary Britain. The film also effectively shows the human cost of the escalating conflicts. The actors, particularly Puri and Griffiths, give richly textured performances. Puri impressively shows the pain of a man who feels useless as he sees his life collapsing around him. Starring Om Puri, Rachel Griffiths and Stellan Skarsgard. Directed by Udayan Prasad. Written by Hanif Kureishi. Produced by Chris Curling. A Miramax release. Drama. Rated R for sexuality, language and a scene of drug use. Running time: 87 min
Tags: Om Puri, Rachel Griffiths, Stellan Skarsgard, Udayan Prasad, Hanif Kureishi, Chris Curling, entourage, beloved, drama, UK
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