East is East was one of the British box office successes of the late 90s, and found an even bigger audience on video and DVD, but it’s hard to believe that there is much, if any, anticipation for this belated sequel. That is probably for the best, as this plodding, bland drama has little in common with its predecessor, featuring none of the anarchically inventive comedy or keen social observation that caused that film to strike a chord with so many.
In 1976, five years after the events of the first film, Salford chip-shop owner George Khan (Om Puri) decides that he should take his unruly 15-year-old son Sajid on a character-building trip to Pakistan to discover their heritage. As played by newcomer Aqib Khan, Sajid is an irritating central character, charmless and constantly whining, and director Andy DeEmmony offers precious little else – save a blink and you’ll miss it Jimi Mistry cameo – to elicit audience sympathies.
Writer Ayub Khan-Din’s secondary focus is to have George face up to what has become of the family he left in Pakistan 30 years earlier. This theoretically fertile dramatic ground yields nothing fresh though, simply forcing the character to retread his emotional journey from the first film, as he once again confronts his shortcomings as a husband and his unreasonable attitude towards women. There are a few nice moments – a visually delightful wedding sequence stands out – but for the most part this is an uninspired and unrewarding sequel.
West is West is released on 25 February. This review first published in The List magazine.