What motivates a young, attractive man in London to marry a woman in Lahore, Pakistan whom he has never met in person? Can this work at all? In the culture clash romantic comedy What's Love Got To Do With It? (in German: What does love have to do with it?), the documentary filmmaker Zoe (Lily James) accompanies her childhood friend Kazim (Shazad Latif) with the camera on his way to supposed marital bliss.
Lily James, last known as Pamela Anderson in the biographical satire Pam
The cast features British, Indian and Pakistani actors, including Pakistani-British standup comedian Jeff Mirza and acclaimed Bollywood actress Shabana Azmi as Kazim's parents.
Director Shekhar Kapur plays with clichés in an amusing way and shows that there are many different types of racial prejudice - sometimes even when someone actually means well.
A plea for broadening the horizon
The two houses in London where Zoe and Kazim grew up are only separated by a house number. But there are continents in between, as the doctor explains to his former neighbor. Both are British, but Kazim grew up in a family of Pakistani origin - with different experiences and different cultural values. Zoe only becomes aware of this when Kazim tells her that he wants to enter into an arranged marriage. "Not a forced marriage," he emphasizes, "but an assisted marriage."
First Zoe falls from all clouds. Then she has an idea: She persuades Kazim to shoot a documentary about his journey to marriage and about the wedding ceremony in Lahore. After initial doubts, the neurosurgeon agrees.
Even the visit to the dating agency - Kazim brings his parents with him - is a culture shock for Zoe. His partner should be intelligent and attractive. But Kazim's parents have more concrete ideas. "Not too dark, at best light brown," emphasizes his mother. "Not too ambitious and not too feminist," says his father. While Kazim is open to any background, the parents are certain: she must be Pakistani and Muslim.
In "What's Love Got to Do with It?" nobody is perfect and nobody is in the pillory. The characters, with all their strengths and weaknesses, are shaped by their social environment. At the same time, Kapur's film is a plea for expanding one's own horizons and being open to other points of view.
Occasionally a lot of clichés
Despite her enthusiasm for Muslim and Pakistani customs, Zoe's mother Cath (Thompson) leaves no faux pas. Cath thinks the dating agency thing is great. She herself keeps trying unsuccessfully to set her daughter up.
Zoe thinks the idea of an arranged marriage is absurd. Kazim, who experiences more pressure at home than he cares to admit, nonchalantly reminds her that relationships with her chosen partners are always short-lived. But will Kazim's vision of a happy marriage come true?
Occasionally the clichés take over the film and some conversations about racism seem a bit forced. The silly jokes about dating apps are also rather redundant. But "What's Love Got To Do With It?" works as a light-hearted romantic comedy thanks to warm moments and some really funny gags.
- What's Love Got To Do With It?, UK 2023, 108 Min., FSK 6, von Shekhar Kapur, mit Lily James, Shazad Latif, Emma Thompson, Shabana Azmi.