Movie Review: The Namesake

I seem to see too many movies to write a review of each, but this one is priceless.

In the lives of Ashoke, Ashima, and their son, we are given a complete view of the immigrant experience, from the hopes and troubles that motivate naive young people to rebuild their lives in a foreign country, to their longing for the familiar faces and routines of home, to the humor of misunderstandings between cultures, sexes and generations, to the difficulties for the new generation of being completely assimilated.

The story is a series of such incidents laid out like a string of pearls. I had not read Jhumpa Lahiri’s book, on which this movie is based. Having read (and reviewed) Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, I found many of the characters familiar, yet they remained realistic, multi-dimensional, and loveable. There is no strong-armed activism or political commentary in this story. By treating every character with compassion and every event even-handedly, Lahiri captures an essentially Indian perspective on life.

I was not immediately impressed by Mira Nair’s direction. The intentional use of grainy film seemed erratic, and the positioning of the camera to separate people seemed overt. But upon further reflection, I realized it is the direction and editing that so powerfully communicates either the closeness or the separation between the characters and their homes.

For Kal Penn, this is certainly a step up from Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle. A masterful performance is given by Irfan Khan who superbly plays the absent minded professor and awkward father and husband who is so gentle and loving at heart. But the star of this movie is Tabu, whose character we follow from youth through marriage, motherhood and finally matriarchy.

Tags: Fun, Reading

Updated at: 29 March 2007 7:03 AM

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