Such strict rules govern the rom-com genre that it is hard to avoid repeating the same old thing. One way around this is to brazenly take an old idea and revamp it. All In Good Time has used this approach and made a film that may not be entirely original, but is still funny and moving in equal measure.
The film follows two handsome newly weds, Atul (Reece Ritchie) and Vina (Amara Karan), who struggle to consummate their new marriage. The trouble is, they are stuck in the small terraced house in Bolton belonging to Atul’s family. Not only can the squeak of every bedspring be heard through the walls, but there is also dad to contend with. Things aren’t helped when their honeymoon tour company goes bust. Dad is Eeshwar, played by the hilarious Harish Patel, who constantly undermines his sensitive son’s achievements and attempts at independence. What starts as an a disappointment, builds into a serious issue.
The young couple are at the heart of the story, but it is Patel’s Eeshwar who really steals the show. Double chinned and triple stomached, Eeshwar is the sort of stubborn, slobbish husband whose wife Lopa (a stoic Meera Syal) would probably kill if he wasn’t also so funny and ultimately helpless. Most of Patel’s career has been spent acting in Bollywood and Indian theatre, but the more observant among us might recognise him from Corrie or My Beautiful Laundrette. He also put a smile on the face as Simon Pegg’s landlord and trainer in Run, Fat Boy, Run, the hapless Mr Goshdashtidar, but this more significant role is apparently what we’ve been waiting for, as it really lets him come into his own.
Of course, a father who never has a good word for his son isn’t exactly a funny scenario and the film is surprisingly poignant. But All in Good Time is about a whole family, not just Atul and Vina. Virtually all the relationships in the film are under strain – Eeshwar and wife Lopa, Atul and his dad, as well as the newly weds. But where would a remotely truthful family drama be without the rows? Despite all this drama, the script is peppered with jokes. There is a steady flow of laughs and, of course, we’re assured a happy ending.
As mentioned earlier, the story isn’t exactly new. All In Good Time was originally a play by Irish-Northern English playwright Bill Naughton, who also wrote Sixties-classic, Alfie. It followed another young working class couple who are constantly thwarted as they try to consummate their marriage after they move into the crowded family home. Although the couple are white, the locale was also up north. The play was first adapted as a television play in 1962 called Honeymoon Postponed.
Three years later it became The Family Way, a Boulting brothers film starring John and Hayley Mills with a soundtrack by Paul McCartney. Wind forward to 2007 and the writer of East is East, Ayub Khan-Din, adapted it as Rafta Rafta (slowly, slowly in Urdu and Hindi) which became a hit at the National Theatre.
All in Good Time is directed by Nigel Cole, who knows a few things about the feel-good movie having directed Calendar Girls and Made in Dagenham). If the thing that distinguishes decent feel-good movie from a bad one is the depth of the feel-bad before things finally start to look up, then Cole scores a hit. The family strife is recognisable and genuinely moving. He is helped by Meera Syal and Harish Patel whose experience playing their current roles in the long run of the stage version shows. Reece Ritchie and Amara Karan are charming, as well as good-looking, young lovers too.
Funny, touching and sweet, All in Good Time also gives Harish Patel the sort of extended role that allows British audiences to really see his extraordinary comic talents – what more could you ask for?
All In Good Time is out in Cinemas today.
See our pictures from the gala screening here.
See Harish Patel and Meera Syal on glorious form here: