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  • Anita and Me
    • Anita and Me
    • Runtime:92 min
    • Release Date:2017-01-17 12:19:28
    • Director: Metin Hüseyin
    • Genres: Comedy, Drama
    • Studio:


Paint by numbers story and mediocre acting saved by some authentic
color – and a few moments that are really wonderful and deeply felt. It
does effectively capture the delicate transition of a girl into
adulthood, and deals very sensitively and inventively with the cultural
conflict the main family experiences.

Unfortunately this germ of a good movie is imprisoned in an aimless and
extremely convoluted plot that manages to incorporate religious strife,
a conflict over a road construction project, the sex life of secondary
and even tertiary characters, a mysterious man who lives in the woods,
a bunch of racist hooligans, at least three different carnivals, the
intricacies of local church politics, and on and on and on. And all of
that doesn't even include the actual central plot, which is only about
the hopes, dreams, and frustrations of two girls (and their entire
families) at the turning point of their lives. I was actually shocked
when I realized the whole thing was supposed to take place over the
course of one summer (and that so much movie got accomplished in 1.5

Ultimately the movie is melodramatic, every plot point is predictable,
major life altering events happen and then are forgotten about 10
minutes later…and some of those events are extremely distasteful.
Most shockingly the fact that one of the characters is involved in a
horrible crime (in a totally predictable "twist") and then is
completely forgiven and the entire incident forgotten about from then
on. Similarly, a secondary character is introduced solely to die a
couple minutes later and provide another "twist." It's all totally
mechanical, right up to the ending that neatly ties up all the loose
ends (well not all of them, just the ones the movie thinks you care


*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Meera Syal's novel, Anita And Me, is a rather pedestrian attempt at a
coming of age story in a British village in 1972. Meena Kumar is from a
Punjabi family that left India for Great Britain, just as Syal's
parents did prior to her birth. Meena experiences the typical things of
young adolescence, such as ethnic slurs, wanting to distance herself
from her parents and culture, and wanting to be popular, etc. The two
young leads are nothing special as the girls, and that is the biggest
problem. The supporting characters are far more interesting, from
Meena's own family, the neighbors, and other town folk. The soundtrack
doesn't do the film justice either, as it is mostly muted in the
background or loud and overbearing at brief moments. Still, there are
several funny, laugh out loud moments involving Meena. Eventually,
Meena and her friend have a falling out, and Meena publishes a short
story and moves away to attend a prestigious school. In the end, it's
education that gets one ahead in life, not teenage popularity or
fitting in. The film tries to be both semi-serious and humorous
simultaneously; it's interesting to a certain point, but it drags
eventually. Ultimately, it's a disappointment considering what it could
have been. **1/2 of 4 stars.


The main character of "Anita and Me" is Meena Kumar, a young girl of
Asian descent living in the Black Country mining village of Tollington.
(The Black Country is an industrial area in the English Midlands, north
and west of Birmingham). The film is based upon the best-selling
autobiographical novel by Meera Syal, who grew up in a village like the
one portrayed here. Syal herself has a small role as Meena's aunt,
while her real-life husband Sanjeev Bhaskar plays Meena's father. The
film has some similarities with another British film from 2002, "Bend
it Like Beckham", which also dealt with the friendship between an Asian
girl and a white girl. One difference, however, is that while "Bend it
Like Beckham" has a contemporary setting, "Anita and Me" is a period
piece set in 1972 which lovingly recreates the look and feel of the
early seventies. Numerous pop songs from the period feature on the

Meena's family are the only Asians living in Tollington- indeed, the
only non-white people living there- although they occasionally get
together with a group of friends from Birmingham to try and keep their
Asian culture alive. Meena, however, has little interest in Asian
culture. Her two great ambitions are to have a short story published in
"Jackie" (a magazine which had a huge readership among teenage girls at
this time) and to be accepted by "the wenches", a gang of girls led by
the glamorous blonde Anita, Meena's neighbour and best friend. ("Wench"
is a dialect word for girl, largely obsolete in standard English but
still used in parts of northern and central England).

Racism is endemic in the village, and the family are not always made
welcome by the local people, many of whom casually make reference to
"pakis" and "wogs". Prejudice, however, is a two-way street, and in
private the Kumars and their friends make disparaging comments about
white people and their culture. When Meena, reasonably enough, asks her
father why he came to live in England if he dislikes English people so
much, he cannot really give her an answer other than "You're too young
to understand". He is also given to reminiscing about the part he
claims to have played in the Indian independence movement, even though
he would have been (at most) a teenager when India gained its
independence in 1947.

The differences between the Kumars and their neighbours, however, are
as much social as racial. Meena's parents are educated middle-class
professionals, which sets them apart from the predominantly
working-class villagers. Their main reason for moving to the village
was that it lies within the catchment area of a prestigious grammar
school, to which they hope Meena will win a scholarship. They have
little sympathy with Meena's aspirations to be a writer (they hope she
will take up a solid professional career like medicine or accountancy),
and even less sympathy with her friendship with Anita and the
"wenches", whom they see as vulgar. The grammar of the title may
reflect this social divide; Meena's parents and the teachers at Queen
Elizabeth's Grammar School would doubtless prefer her to use the more
formal "Anita and I", but she sticks to the less grammatical form used
by most of the villagers. It is notable that Meena, like Anita and the
other local people but unlike her parents, speaks with a strong Black
Country accent.

The tone of the film becomes for a time more serious when an Asian man
is beaten up by a gang of white youths. It transpires that Anita's
boyfriend was involved, and when Anita makes it clear that she is
standing by him, Meena has to decide where her loyalties lie. Most of
the time, however, the tone is fairly light and humorous, with some
great comic characters. There are amusing cameos from Lynn Redgrave as
the obstinately prejudiced local shopkeeper Mrs Ormerod and from Mark
Williams as the middle-aged Methodist minister who tries to be trendy
but ends up as simply embarrassing, patronising the young people by his
attempts to speak to them in what he fondly imagines to be teenage

One or two of the Asian characters struck me as a bit exaggerated,
especially Meena's eccentric, sword-wielding grandmother, and I wasn't
too impressed with some of the colour photography. At times it seemed
as though the film had been shot using a camera lens that had
accidentally been smeared with marmalade. On the whole, however, I
enjoyed the film, especially the very natural performances from two
local girls, Anna Brewster as the sluttish Anita and Chandeep Uppal as
the delightful young Meena. This was an amusing comedy with a few
serious points to make about racial identity and social class. And as I
would have been around Meena's age in 1972 it also provided me with a
nostalgic trip back to my own past. 7/10

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