Owen Gleiberman
July 16, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

My Son The Fanatic

Current Status
In Season
Drama, Romance

We gave it a B+

The Indian actor Om Puri has one of those faces that’s like a road map of suffering. It’s no insult to say that his every pockmark is a crater of anguish, and in My Son the Fanatic, he makes that ravagement speak with burnished force as Parvez, a Pakistani taxi driver who has lived for 25 years in the industrial north of England but discovers that, instead of becoming assimilated, he has grown as divided as Hamlet. Parvez, who chauffeurs the local hookers, feels comfortable in the muck. He starts an affair with one of the prostitutes (Rachel Griffiths), and Puri delivers his lines in a deceptive singsong — the familiar cadence of Indian whimsicality, only here, it’s the sound of someone kissing off the very world he came from.

That world is embodied in all its puritan fury by Parvez’s son (Akbar Kurtha), who goes to war against his father by embracing religious fundamentalism. Written by Hanif Kureishi, who remains best known for his multi-culti art-house scripts of the ’80s (My Beautiful Laundrette, Sammy & Rosie Get Laid), My Son the Fanatic rambles at times, but it shows a new maturity of vision from a writer who has often been blunted by glibness. This time, his dialogue weeps, quietly. B+

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