Eye For Film >> Movies >> Nina's Heavenly Delights (2006) Film Review
Nina's Heavenly Delights
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
The secret of a good curry lies in the recipe. Get it right and there is a gentle mix of flavours, working in harmony, get it wrong and one flavour can dominate or spoil the outcome. The same is true of romantic dramas. Too sweet and they lose their bite, too bitter and no one is interested.
Pratibha Parmar’s debut fiction feature treads the middle ground – although some of her ingredients are surprising. Nina (Shelley Conn) is a Scottish Asian prodigal daughter, returning to her family following the death of her dad. She fled to avoid an arranged marriage and she comes back to discover her father passed away with some secrets. Firstly, he lost half the restaurant in a bet – and it is now shared with a young caucasian Scot Lisa (Laura Fraser). Secondly, he is through to the final of The Best of The West Curry Competition. In true romantic drama style Nina aims to win the trophy for a record third time – with the help of Lisa - in honour of her dad. But in a surprising twist, it isn’t just her competition entries that are getting spicy in the kitchen.
This is certainly not intended to be a slice of gritty social realism – which is not necessarily a bad thing. A playful, fairytale atmosphere pervades and touches of magic realism indicate we are in an ideal world where love will, if not conquer everything, then pretty much hug it into submission.
Parmar’s film scores with its central partnership, glowing like a strand of saffron at the heart of the mix. Nina’s gradual coming to terms with her own identity is well-realised and the food metaphors are imaginatively employed. Laura Fraser is also excellent as feisty but caring Lisa – although she is never quite matched in the acting department by Conn. The fact that their unconventional love affair is at the centre of such a traditional style drama is also cleverly subversive. Parmar and scriptwriter Andrea Gibb have a serious point to make here but do so with intelligence and a lightness of touch, trying to woo over the pigeons rather than scare them.
However, there are other plot ingredients which don’t quite gel as they should, not least a surfeit of bit characters who are all undergoing their own transformation. Perhaps the least successful of these is Nina’s pal Bobbi (Ronny Jhutti) – a camp wannabe Bollywood dancer. While Jhutti throws himself into the role with admirable gusto, the subplot only serves to distract from the heart of the film and despite some excellent cinematography from Simon Dennis - who shot super short Iota a couple of years ago - the Bollywood segments never feel quite right.
Ultimately this is a spicy little number, that won’t disappoint, although it could do with just a little more kick.Reviewed on: 27 Sep 2006
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