Some multi generational films try to cram in too much and end up being disjointed and episodic. This film, based on Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel of the same name, is anything but. We get to know the main characters and learn their feelings and personalities in a clear and honest fashion. Director Mira Nair’s ability to do this so economically and clearly, while remaining true to the novel, is masterly and affecting.
The story: a young woman in Calcutta travels to New York after an arranged marriage to live with her new husband, an Indian graduate student. Over the years their affection grows, they raise two children, and the children develop their own interests and personalities. As with real families we see friendship, tragedy, marriage, birth — the usual suspects. In this case we see these events through a lens of cultural differences and tensions while at the same time seeing underlying universal themes of love and loyalty.
In someone else’s hands this movie might have turned out to be a shallow episodic tear jerker. In Mira Nair’s hands it is much more. This is also due to the quite elegant cinematography used throughout by Frederick Elmes. The subdued color palettes used during both the Indian and the U.S. sequences are remarkably similar and have the effect of drawing us closer to the characters themselves rather than clashing cultures.