Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Shakur Kapur

Stars: Lily James, Shazad Latif, Emma Thompson, Sajal Ali, Asim Chaudhry, Shabana Azmi, Jeff Mizra, Pakiza Baig, Ben Asheden, Alexander Owen, Oliver Chris.

Movie Review: 'What's Love Got To Do With It?'

Not to be confused with the 1993 film of the same name which depicted the volatile and tumultuous relationship between Tina Turner and her abusive Svengali-like husband Ike, this British/Indian co-production is a cross cultural romantic comedy about an arranged marriage.  

Zoe (Lily James, from Yesterday, etc) is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who sets out to make a film following Kazim (Shazad Latif, from Penny Dreadful, etc), her British born Pakistani next-door neighbour and best friend through the process of an arranged marriage (or “assisted marriage” as it is called here). Kazim, a doctor with a major metropolitan hospital, has agreed to go along with the wishes of his more traditional Muslim parents and enters into an arranged marriage with Maymouna (Sajal Ali), a law student in Lahore whom he initially meets via Skype. Zoe has managed to interest a couple of jaded television producers (Ben Ashenden and Alexander Owen) in the concept under the working title of Love Contractually. They see some potential for a reality tv series in the concept, while Zoe hopes to use the documentary to explore the role of the traditional arranged marriages in today’s society. As Kazim points out to Zoe, the divorce rate for arranged marriages is approximately one tenth of that of more traditional marriages. 

Zoe and her eccentric, divorced mother Cath (the wonderful Emma Thompson) fly out to Pakistan with Kazim and his family to attend the lavish tradition wedding ceremony, with Zoe duly filming the process. But in the best traditions of the romcom, the path towards matrimony is not always smooth and Kazim experiences a few difficulties along the way. 

What’s Love Got To Do With It? is the first feature script written by Jemima Khan, the former wife of Pakistani cricketer and Prime Minister, and obviously is informed by her own personal experiences. Many of the puns and jokes land, but some of the culturally based humour also misses the mark. What’s Love Got To Do With It? follows the well-established formula for the romcom genre and is also fairly predictable. It is obvious from the outset where the film was headed, but it is the journey that is important.  

The film has been directed by Shakhar Kapur, an Oscar nominated filmmaker best known for dramas like Bandit Queen and Elizabeth, and this marks his first foray into comedy. It is lighter in tone than his earlier films. He offers up some insights into the rich history and culture of Pakistan, as well as exploring the personal implications of this old tradition of arranged marriages in the modern world and also showing the contrasting cultural differences of the characters. The Pakistan-set sequences are full of colour with some fabulous costumes courtesy of Caroline McCall, nice production design from Simon Elliott, and a couple of superbly choreographed Bollywood-style dance sequences that give us a strong sense of this vibrant place and its culture. Nitin Sawhney’s score further adds to the flavour of the material. The film has been nicely shot by cinematographer Remi Adefarasin (who shot Kapur’s Elizabeth.)  

James brings warmth but also a vulnerability and insecurity to her performance as the likeable Zoe, while Latif exudes charm.  She and Latif develop a wonderful easy-going chemistry and their relationship seems natural and unforced. The always reliable Thompson is great as Cath, who is constantly pressuring Zoe to settle down and get married. This is a role seemingly tailor made for Thompson, and she provides many great humourous moments with her exuberant performance. Asim Chaudhry provides some big laughs with his role as Mo, an overly enthusiastic matchmaker. Shabana Azmi and Jeff Mizra are great and bring warmth and conviction to their roles as Kazim’s devoted parents Aisha and Zahid, while Pakiza Baig brings compassion and a touch of sadness to her role as grandmother Nani Jan. Oliver Chris brings charm to his supporting role as James the vet, who Cath sees as a potential romantic match for Zoe. 

The film has been produced by the Working Title company, which has given us some of those classic romcoms written by Richard Curtis, such as Love Actually, etc, so audiences are assured of a good time here. While fun this formulaic romcom is also easy to forget once you leave the cinema. 


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