A feminist action film about a young British-Pakistani woman who wants to break away from tradition and become a stunt woman going on a mission to save her sister from an arranged marriage? Sounds great right? The idea is excellent, the performances are strong and the cinematography is innovative, but Polite Society is let down by poorly written characters, unconvincing relationships and uneven pacing.
Ashley Connor’s cinematography is interesting, with birdseye view shots creating a slightly disjointed, flying feeling, and the movie is split up into “acts”, introduced with large, leaded writing, which also works well for a tongue-in-cheek action film. But the pacing of the cinematography feels out of whack with the pacing of the story, and so one misses out on being swept up by the lively energy.
Priya Kansara as Rita is funny and shows great potential as an action star, adding a mix of vulnerability with impressive physical feats. Unfortunately, she’s let down by a script which doesn’t seem entirely sure who her character is. Rita’s desire to save her sister, Lena (Ritu Arya), and help her pursue her dreams of becoming an artist would have been a beautiful exploration of sisterhood and following your dreams no matter what society says. But the viewer doesn’t get to know Lena well enough to root for her ambitions.
Nimra Bucha (Raheela) gives a fun, over-the-top performance as the villainous mother who will stop at nothing to see her son marry Lena, but again her character’s motivation is unclear. Her sickly relationship with her son Salim (Akshay Khanna) is genuinely hilarious and should have had more screen time. Khanna puts in another strong performance and is good at keeping us guessing.
The audience misses out on that gripping-the-edge-of-your-seat frustration when a character is trying to convince others of the truth because for most of the film Rita’s motivations feel unconvincing. It would have also worked if we’d believed Rita was just projecting her own dreams onto her sister, but the film doesn’t seem to pick either route and so we’re left feeling confused.
The idea behind Polite Society is exciting and innovative, and there are frequent enjoyable moments. It also offers a mainstream audience insight into British-Pakistani culture, which is incredibly important. There is a beautiful dance sequence towards the end of the film that Kansara absolutely kills, the action can be fun and the overall storyline is enjoyably original and insightful. The actors deliver good performances and the cinematography is engaging and energetic. However, weaknesses in the script, confused pacing and a lack of substantial characters stop it from reaching its full potential.
Polite Society is released nationwide on 28th April 2023.
Watch the trailer for Polite Society here: