Roopi (Goldy Notoy) is an Indian girl who seems to be destined to be unlucky in love. Although she is intelligent, strong-willed and beautiful, it seems that the fact she is slightly overweight is enough to scare off all potential husbands – and their parents. Her mother (Shabana Azmi) despairs about her daughter’s fate, and takes her frustrations out on those who have criticised her daughter; by killing them, no less. Her victims soon turn up as vengeful ghosts but, realising that they won’t be able to move on until Roopi meets the man of her dreams, the spirits soon turn matchmakers and help Mr Sethi bring about her daughter’s happy ever after. They are helped by the arrival of Detective Murthy (Sendhil Ramamurthy), a childhood friend of Roopi’s who is investigating the murders, but the road to true love never runs smooth…
Intended, no doubt, as a gentle poke at traditional Indian customs, It’s A Wonderful Afterlife is surprisingly off target given its talented director. There’s nothing subtle about the comedy; it’s more ribald slapstick than satire and, although there are occasional moments of genuine humour, an over-reliance on gross-out gags, obvious one-liners and cultural stereotypes dilutes any serious messages that otherwise could have been mined from the narrative.
The impressive cast do their best with the material, but sometimes look adrift in clunky dialogue and ludicrous set-pieces. Sally Hawkins is wonderful as the English girl seduced by the mystique of India, only to find that realities don’t match up to her dreams, while Ramamurthy and Notoy are charming as the couple at the centre of the melodramatic maelstrom. But they just aren’t given enough to work with, their characters not given the space to really explore the themes the narrative throws up. And the general tone is an uneasy one; aside from a wonderfully messy set piece which re-enacts the famous scene from Carrie with curry standing in for pig’s blood nothing really seems to work, and the result is that It’s A Wonderful Life feels misjudged and, surprisingly mishandled. 2 stars
Cast and crew interviews, premiere featurette and a handful of deleted and alternate scenes. 2 stars
Stars Goldy Notoy, Sally Hawkins, Shabani Azmi
Director Gurinder Chadha
Distributor Icon Home Entertainment
Released August 18