Love + Hate


Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

Writer/director Dominic Savage breaks out from television with his cinematic debut Love + Hate. It's a small-scale film focusing on the difficulties experienced by amorous youngsters living in a deliberately anonymous town in northern England. The crux is their racial and cultural divides.

Naseema is a British Muslim Pakastani teenager who has always lived under the close supervision of her parents and older brother Yousif. While her mother and father are not shown to be instructive or prohibitive, Yousif positively dominates Naseema with cultural and physical intimidation. Things seem to have stepped up a gear now that she is starting her first job at a local carpet store, where she will no longer be under his watchful, judgemental eye.

Yousif lives by his mantra: "I'll do what I want, when I want." This means cruising the town, picking up dispensable white English girls for no-strings sex in the back of his car, showing little respect for the women. When he picks up the outwardly confident Michelle, one of Naseema's workmates, his choice of lifestyle and her new taste of life's choices begin to draw them inevitably closer.

At the carpet store is Adam, a young white lad who immediately snubs Naseema. His racist phobia is barely witheld in her presence, while openly expressed with his mates. It soon becomes clear that the strongest, most influential racists in his life are his bullying older brother and their dominant mother. This pair's insistent prejudice is sickeningly blatant and violent.

However, it isn't long before Adam starts to have a definite change of heart and develops a monumental crush on Naseema, which she reciprocates with equal ardour. Their secret romance becomes the central conceit of the film, confined to clinches in bombed out buildings throughout the desolate urban landscape, as clandestine and seemingly hopeless as Yousif and Michelle's developing, hidden relationship. Inexorably, they all move towards confrontations and resolutions.

This may sound as if Savage has orchestrated a well-balanced modern Romeo and Juliet, from which you could expect searing sparks of human tragedy and a wry, intelligent comment on the world in which the diverse youth of today is growing up. Sadly, Love + Hate doesn't come close and confines itself to the black and white, cut and dried arguments its title suggests. There appears to be no real consideration of, or insight into, why these people (and their families) are feeling and thinking as they are.

Savage has deliberately chosen a cast of unknowns, some of who have never acted before, although Samina Awan (Naseema) acquits herself well. It's an admirable (and cheap) decision taken with an eye for authenticity that might have come off were it not for the screenplay. Basically, he doesn't really have one.

He started out with very strong ideas about how he wanted the narrative to run and then prepared his actors, encouraging ad-libs and improvisation throughout. There are brief moments when this creates genuine warmth, or a dash of humour, such as Nichola Burley's (Michelle) machine gun delivery.

Mostly, Savage is undone by his untrained actors, as the task of believable improv proves too much for them. More often than not scenes feel forced and clunky, as the characters none too subtly have to crowbar in the next crucial revelation, or narrative device. The mechanics of the director's guidance are very apparent, although little else is.

This lack of a well-considered screenplay is perhaps the reason why the film is never up to holding a meaningful discourse on the issues it purports to have at its heart. While it is clear that its intentions are sincere, many might think its methods superficial.

Shortened and tightened, this would have worked better as a TV drama.

Reviewed on: 05 May 2006
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Racial tensions and secret romances in a desolate northern English urban cityscape
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Director: Dominic Savage

Writer: Dominic Savage

Starring: Samina Awan, Thomas Hudson, Nichola Burley, Wasim Zakir, Miriam Ali, Dean Andrews, Liam Boyle, Ryan Leslie

Year: 2005

Runtime: 86 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK/Ireland


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