A young documentary filmmaker decides to chronicle her best friend’s journey into an arranged marriage.
I was in two minds when I walked into the screening of What’s Love Got To Do With It? Not because I had an issue with the film per say but more because a couple of weeks before I had seen a trailer for the film that ran for well over two minutes and proceeded to tell a lot of the story of the film – you could almost say that is was a short film in itself. So when I walked into the screening in the back of mind that niggling little voice that critic’s have was telling me “you’ve already seen this and you now how it is going to end.”
To be honest the trailer did give away the ending, so avoid watching it if you are going to see the film, but what saved it was the fact that while I knew the destination the film itself took a different route to how I expected to get there.
The film is an interesting take on the romantic comedy/drama genre. It centres around gifted young documentary filmmaker Zoe (Lily James – Cinderella) who is finding that her insanely woke, politically trendy producers are not accepting of her documentary – for them it is too deep when all they want is ratings.
Her mind instantly goes to a conversation she had the day before with her best friend, Pakistani born doctor Kazim (Shazad Latif – The Commuter), when he had told her that he was deciding to go with what most people would call an ‘arranged’ marriage in order to find love. Zoe quickly blurts out that she will follow Kazim’s search for love in a serious documentary about the role of arranged marriages in modern society, but all her producers hear is that it might up being like a reality dating show and they jump at the opportunity to sign it up.
Even from that description of the plot I’ll admit that What’s Love Got To Do With It sounds like a pretty lame romance film but the film shouldn’t be dismissed that quickly because it is somewhat of a conundrum when you start to scratch beneath the surface.
First it should be noted that the film is directed by Oscar winning director Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth) and written by someone who knows a thing or two about dating and love in the sub-continent Jemima Khan. So what follows is a film that goes a little deeper than the kiss and giggle film that I was expecting.
I was brilliantly surprised to find that the film not only explored the well-trodden path of Zoe feeling pressure from her mother, Cath (Emma Thompson – Sense And Sensibility), to get married but also explores much deeper topics about what it is like to be Muslim and living in the UK. As Kazim rightfully points out at one moment in the film – while Zoe’s family and his family may have been next neighbours and friends for years there is still a world apart between the ways the lives in each house are lived out.
I never expected for What’s Love Got To Do With It to become a thought-provoking film – but it certainly does that. Even throw away lines or jokes about Kazim having to go to the airport early because ‘people that look like me have trouble going through security’ have a deeper meaning that really slaps the audience in the face.
And then there is the fact that when the dating starts that Zoe puts her foot in it by some of the things she includes in the documentary really does show the differences in culture and how everybody needs to work that little harder to truly understand each other. As someone who grew up in a multicultural area of Melbourne, I was one of only two Aussies in a class of 30 at my primary school (and even then three of my grandparents were not born in Australia), I found this film to be a film that captured multiculturalism and its highs and lows remarkably well – so well in fact that I feel it almost feels like a disservice to simply call it a romance.
What’s Love Got To With It is certainly a surprising film that went well beyond what I expected it to be. As well exploring the deep topic of what love means to different people and the journeys they take to get there I also found the film to be Kapur’s love letter to Pakistan revealing the country to be more than what Western media makes it – to be honest I have now added it to my bucket list to visit on my trip to India. Judge What’s Love Got To Do With it at your own peril because I discovered that there is more to it than many will expect.