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Anita & Me (2002)

Take a trip back in time to when flares, glam rock and Jackie magazine ruled!

Directed by:

Metin Hüseyin

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 93 minutes

UK Certificate: 12

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom

Chandeep Uppal makes her first acting appearance as 12-year-old Meena Kumar, a Punjabi girl growing up in a mining town in the Midlands. The year is 1972, and families like hers are trying to work out how they fit into British society while attempting to maintain their own culture. Meena's house is always full of a constant stream of ethnic visitors and her parents seem to see no need to integrate further, but Meena finds them baffling. Meena's family are keen to see her keeping up the family's cultural traditions, however all Meena wants is to be blonde, eat fish fingers and write something that is published in Jackie magazine.

Meena's life changes when a brash new family called the Rutters become her neighbours. The daughter of the household, Anita (Anna Brewster), is everything Meena would like to be. Older than Meena, Anita is tall, blonde, willowy and a brazen troublemaker. Meena quickly comes to worship Anita, following her around, and although they are very different a kind of friendship develops between the two. Meena is even allowed to tag along with Anita's gang of older girls, although she is still something of an outsider. However, Anita and her friends want to do things more suited to older girls – chase boys and go out – and Meena finds herself being left behind. Meena will have to find her own place in a world full of racism and ignorance, and learn to reconcile who she is with what she aspires to be.

This genial and effective comedy drama certainly offers food for thought. The story, although simple, is poignant and genuine, set against a backdrop of 1970s England and the racism that was prevalent there. Chandeep Uppal makes a good job of portraying the naive and immature Meena, although Anna Brewster is somewhat uninspired as Anita – it is very hard to see what appeal Meena would find in this often-unpleasant teenager. The rest of the cast are largely both experienced and gifted, although some of the supporting performances are no more than workmanlike, perhaps because the screenplay fails to examine their characters to any great depth. In all, however, “Anita & Me” is an amusing look at the 70s from a different angle, which will appeal to a wide range of audiences.

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It's Got: An interesting look back at the lives of ethnic families in 1970s England.

It Needs: More appeal to the character of Anita.

DVD Extras Always nice to hear what Meera Syal has to say. Extras: Commentary by director Metin Hüseyin and writer/actor Meera Syal, Carlton documentary, Deleted scenes, Photo gallery, Theatrical trailer, TV and radio spots. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10

Summary

Another entry into the growing stable of respected British Asian comedies, this one providing a nostalgic look at life in the 1970s while shedding some light on the present.

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