Established TV-helmer Dominic Savage’s first theatrical feature “Love + Hate” reps yet another Blighty-set kitchen-sink drama about troubled Asian-Caucasian romances. Arriving only a year after Ken Loach’s similarly themed “Ae Fond Kiss… “, “Love + Hate” looks like more of the same, not least because it shares a cinematographer, Barry Ackroyd, with Loach’s movie, features several non-pro thesps and has a semi-improvised, quasi-docu vibe about it. But while some perfs are ace, plot’s contrived coincidences seriously damage pic’s realist street feel. Result looks like an upmarket afterschool special, destined for, at best, minor fests before tube airings.
In an unnamed Northern English town (end credits thank people of Blackburn, Lancashire), pretty 17-year-old Naseema (Samina Awan) starts her first job working at a home decoration store. Brassy but good-hearted colleague Michelle (Nichola Burley) makes her feel welcome, but young Adam (Tom Hudson) refuses to even speak to her.
Adam comes from a racist family and is influenced by his older brother Sean (Ryan Leslie), who puts down “Pakis” (a catch-all Brit insult for anyone of South Asian descent) at every opportunity. When Adam furtively starts dating Naseema, he risks exclusion from his family and friends the same as Naseema does from her strict Muslim circle.
Meanwhile, Michelle starts a secret affair with Naseema’s older brother Yousif (Wasim Zakir), who hypocritically insists his sister conform to the ideal of a good Muslim girl.
The two plot-lines interweave in a desultory way over pic’s surprisingly short running time, dragged out by montage sequences that are cut to whiny Brit rock from the likes of Ian Brown, Stephen Fretwell and Snow Patrol. Such musical choices grate as the lyrics about painful love often mirror too literally what’s happening on screen, although this may be a sly homage to Bollywood musicals.
Unfortunately, irony does not seem to be part of West’s helming arsenal. Director of admired, grit-heavy BBC telemovies as BAFTA-winner “Nice Girl” and “Out of Control,” West displays impressive skill with young thesps. Although Hudson is a veteran of two series of kids’ soap “Grange Hill,” the little-experienced Awan displays impressive range here as does complete novice Burley who has an incandescent screen presence.
Pic would probably work best for tweenie auds. But explicit sex scenes and copious if believable bad language are likely to earn it the kind of classification that could prevent the very youngsters who would also benefit the most from its anti-racist sermon from seeing it.
Ackroyd’s grainy lensing, working unusually in widescreen, is up to his usual high standard, and rest of tech package is fine. Pic was subtitled throughout at projection caught, now a common practice at festivals for British films featuring characters with broad regional accents.