Polite Society, a unique 2023 film from British writer-director Nida Manzoor, is a high-octane fusion of kung-fu action, coming-of-age, family drama, and comedy. Manzoor skillfully blends these elements into a compelling narrative set within the British-Pakistani community.
The film focuses on a traditional family with two rebellious daughters, Ria (Priya Kansara), a fiery London high schooler with dreams of becoming a stunt woman, and Lena (Rita Arya), an artist contemplating her future.
Their closely-knit relationship is put to the test when Lena becomes engaged to Salim (Akshay Khanna), a charismatic doctor introduced by his mother, Raheela (Nimra Bucha), at a social gathering.
Ria, suspecting ulterior motives from Salim and his overbearing mother, embarks on a mission with her friends Clara (Seraphina Beh) and Alba (Ella Bruccoleri) to save Lena. Manzoor’s fresh direction and witty script keep audiences engaged despite the narrative alternating between cringe-inducing and laugh-out-loud moments.
The first half of Polite Society is marked by laughter and heartwarming sisterly bonding, albeit with exaggerated fights that stretch believability. The narrative shifts gears in the second half, focusing on the elaborate preparations of a South Asian wedding and Ria’s comedic espionage mission, reminiscent of The Pink Panther, to stop the impending nuptials.
Despite a disappointing climactic reveal, the film benefits from several standout moments, including Ria’s hilarious rendition of “Maar Daala,” a Bollywood classic, and the final showdown with Raheela.
Kansara’s vibrant portrayal of Ria, filled with wit and infectious clumsiness, is commendable. Arya, Mirza, Kapoor, Bruccoleri, and Beh deliver solid performances, with Bucha standing out in her deliciously villainous role.
Polite Society borrows elements from Bend It Like Beckham, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Lady Bird, yet it stands as a unique film in its own right. Its London setting, combined with a Bollywood energy and the characters’ aspirations to emulate Michelle Yeoh, gives the film an infectious zest.
This spirited exploration of female independence and ambition, despite its highs and lows, is a delightful punch of comedy and emotion, offering audiences an enjoyable journey into the heart of a British-Pakistani family.
Polite Society is a testament to the film’s potent cinematic punch that it remains a memorable experience, delivering a powerful portrayal of ambition and rebellion against tradition.
IMAGE CREDIT: Universal Pictures UK.