In the age of dating apps, can you actually find love or have modern relationships become more contractual? London neighbours, Kaz (Shazad Latif) and Zoe (Lily James), have differing opinions on love and the idea of the ‘happily ever after’. A documentary filmmaker, Zoe, is commitment phobic whereas Kaz, a doctor, is duty-bound and willingly submits to the concept of an assisted marriage. Arranged marriages are passé. Zoe’s mother Cath (Emma Thompson) is aghast at her daughter’s disinterest in finding Mr Right.
Hitting a creative wall, a desperate Zoe pitches her best friend Kaz’s upcoming betrothal and the cultural quirks on an assisted marriage to her producers. Her pitch is ‘Love Contractually’. The producing duo love it.
Kaz is a doctor, which Mo (Asim Chaudhry) the matchmaker says, gives him a top rank on the marriage eligibility ladder. He’s even open to marrying someone he meets virtually. Amazed that Kaz would willingly marry a stranger, Zoe follows him and his family around with her camera, capturing the moments that lead up to a wedding in Lahore. A British-Pakistani, Kaz often reminds his very British neighbour that though they live right next door, the distance between them is a vast cultural canyon.
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Next door, Kaz’s mother Aisha is quickly caught up in the whirlwind of proposals and wedding preparations. As Aisha, Shabana Azmi is a solid counter to Cath. The latter is most excited about the exotic wedding. Emma Thompson is handed the best one-liners. “I’ll Facetime you from Lahore, or cover my Facetime,” she says to her dog’s vet as she pulls a scarf over her face like a veil. Thompson, enthusiastically throwing herself into Bollywood moves at the wedding function, in her kitsch garments, is one of the highlights of this 90-minute feel-good romp. Another is watching Rahat Fateh Ali Khan perform a qawwali.
Sajal Aly is lovely as Moymouna, Kaz’s prospective bride in Lahore, who emerges as the one Pakistani character with agency. The other women, particularly in the UK, conform to gender stereotypes. As the quintessential self-deprecating Brit, who is courting Zoe, Oliver Chris is very likable.
Written by Jemima Khan and directed by Shekhar Kapur, What’s Love Got To Do With It? is a by-the-book romcom that has the stamp of a Working Title Films (Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary) production all over. Khan’s slightly amateur debut screenplay spotlights a British Pakistani family and juxtaposes their world view, culture and experiences with their very English neighbours.
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Shazad Latif and Lily James share the comfort of two old friends experiencing the unease of new feelings. Kapur, known for period dramas (Bandit Queen, Elizabeth), returns to direction after a long gap. He crafts an easy-breezy romantic comedy with warmth, affection and lightness. Though there are few surprises, What’s Love Got To Do With It? will leave you with a smile.