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It's a Wonderful AfterLife


Stars: Shabana Azmi, Goldy Notay, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Jimi Mistry, Sally Hawkins, Mark Addy, Jamie Sives, Zoe Wanamaker, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Don Warrington

Director: Gurinder Chadha

The distinguished Indian actress Shabana Azmi has perhaps the most unusual role of her career in this ghost romcom, as a late-in-life murderess, plagued by the spirits of those she has killed, whom only she can see and talk to.

Her victims are local nasties who, having insulted her or her hefty daughter Roopi (Notay), have been offed in ways befitting a master curry-cook - with kebab skewers, a rolling pin and a surfeit of curry. And it's proving anything but a wonderful afterlife for this lot.

Now Azmi would like to off herself, which would free the ghosts that follow her night and day, but she does not want to die before Roopi has got married, which seems a distant dream as she is 'built like a buffalo' and eats like one too. 'Whoever marries her,' says one character, 'will never need a mattress.' Enter a handsome Indian police-sergeant (Ramamurthy from TV's Heroes) related to the family, plus his gung-ho superior (Addy), who soon has Roopi marked down as the prime suspect.

There are some nice ideas (including a food-strewn take-off of Carrie) and good chuckles in Chadha's film, although the movie itself is a bit of mess, and some of the scenes are just held too long by an over-indulgent director. And surely Azmi would have been arrested on the spot for her final murder, with the corpse in her garden and her fingerprints on the fatal weapon.

Notay, however, with the help of some padding in earlier scenes, is Roopi to the life, although Hawkins steals all her scenes as a sort-of-psychic, with a performance that suggests a study of Michael Crawford in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em. The ghosts themselves prove rather tiresome, always in a pack and latterly including Azmi's Jewish neighbour (Wanamaker), who accidentally eats one of her friend's poisoned goodies. Pondering the afterlife, Azmi asks her 'Where do Jewish people go when they die?'. 'Willesden,' says Wanamaker.

David Quinlan

USA 2010. UK Distributor: Icon. Technicolor.
100 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 0.

Review date: 17 Apr 2010