What's Love Got to Do with It? is a fairly conventional British romcom with an unconventional Pakistani slant.
Starring: Lily James, Shazad Latif, Shabana Azmi, Emma Thompson, Sajal Aly, Oliver Chris, Asim Chaudhry, Jeff Mirza, Pakiza Baig, Alice Orr-Ewing, and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan
Directed by: Shekhar Kapur
ometimes there are movies that bring you joy merely by existing. What’s Love Got to Do with It? is one of those instances. Not just because it’s delightfully charming – which it is – but because it does what few other foreign films do: show Pakistan in a positive light and portray people of Pakistani descent as normal humans. Hurray for that!
Directed by Shekhar Kapur with a screenplay by Jemima Khan, the movie takes its cues from the Richard Curtis school of romcoms to create a sweet drama about the search for love and happiness, giving its tale a slightly different spin by imbuing it with flavours of Pakistani culture.
The protagonist is award-winning documentary filmmaker Zoe (Lily James), an unlucky-in-love Londoner who seems to be looking for Mister Right in all the wrong places. Turns out that a string of dating app swipes and hookups isn’t what fairytales are made of, but how else are you going to find love in the modern world?
A potential answer arrives when her childhood friend and neighbour, the British Pakistani Kaz (Shazad Latif), announces that he has decided to let his family arrange his marriage. Could there be some merit to this seemingly quaint approach to finding a partner?
A fascinated Zoe decides to explore the concept, convincing Kaz to let her film his journey that will hopefully lead to matrimonial bliss. But things, of course, don’t go quite as seamlessly as everyone would have hoped.
The overall formula may feel familiar, but What’s Love drapes its romcom hijinks in cultural tones that usually can’t be found in such flicks while touching on topics like racism, conservatism, and interracial marriages. Things never get too heavy though. It’s all quite sweet and entertaining, thanks in no small part to the ridiculously charming cast that makes the proceedings warm and touching. It’s impossible not to root for Zoe and Kaz when they’re being played by actors as winsome as James and Latif. The supporting cast – particularly a very animated Emma Thompson, who portrays Zoe’s mother – also bring much life and colour to the tale.
Ultimately, there may not be many surprises on offer here – is it mean to wish for an untidy ending for a romcom? – but What’s Love Got to Do with It? still makes for enjoyable viewing and tugs at your heartstrings (especially if you have stumbled in your search for the right person) while leaving you feeling hopeful that there will be more projects – both local and foreign – that will embrace Pakistani culture and people with the same level of warmth.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection