By Laura BennettWednesday 8 Feb 2023MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes
How do you think falling in love happens? Is it in looks exchanged across the room that draw you toward someone? An unexpected meeting that feels destined? Or does it come from gradually getting to know someone and realising your affection for them?
As self-proclaimed mouthpieces for relationship goals, romantic comedies have long set the guideposts for what constitutes an ideal relationship and how to get one, but few – if any in recent times – approach it like British cross-cultural comedy What’s Love Got to With It?.
The story follows Zoe (Lily James), a successful documentary filmmaker who looks to her childhood best friend Kaz (Shazad Latif) and his upcoming arranged marriage as the inspiration for her next project. Zoe fails to understand why anyone would opt-in to what feels like an antiquated and oppressive tradition but over the course of documenting she begins to question her own approach to love and the flaws within each culture.
What’s Love Got to Do It? feels all too real in its portrayal of two young (but thirtysomething) singles feeling the weight of wanting a permanent relationship, who are wondering how and when it’ll ever happen.
On Zoe’s side is a vibrant yet naïve mother Cath (Emma Thompson) who hopes a husband will come but doesn’t seem to understand why it’s hard for Zoe to find one. While Kaz has layers of religious expectation and Pakistani tradition to contend with.
Meeting in the middle, Zoe and Kaz’s friendship gives us a window into the pair’s opposing worlds and where one may need insight from the other.
Interestingly it’s Zoe – in her free-wheeling Western culture of hook ups and finding “the one” – who seems truly anxious about the process compared to a considerate Kaz who’s acutely aware of the systems he’s abiding by but is clear about which parts of it are of value.
Living in a Western society, the idea of arranged marriage – or “assisted” marriage as What’s Love Got to With It? calls it – is met with uncomfortable shock as you imagine your parents choosing someone for you and the possible absence of any sexual chemistry or appeal.
What’s Love Got to Do It? pushes back on sex as a first priority, dismissing the demand that relationships “have to boil before they simmer”, instead encouraging us to “fall into like, and walk into love”.
What’s Love Got to Do It? encourages us to “fall into like, and walk into love”.
For all its reflections you already know where the movie is ultimately going to land but getting there is far more unique, refreshing and hopeful than the avenues offered in most other stories from the genre.
What’s Love Got to Do With It? has an inclusive portrayal of Pakistani culture and religion that deepens our understanding of characters normally reduced to stereotypes on the margins of a mainstream story.
Christian viewers may also feel an affinity with some of Kaz’s views but in him bringing voice to them they’re not confined to a “judgmental goodie-two-shoes” trope, instead given room to breathe in the beautiful – and sometimes difficult – expression of his culture and convictions.
What’s Love Got to Do With It? forces us to admit that our views on love and marriage are as much the making of our culture as own true desires and will have you wondering where we’re getting it right and wrong.
What’s Love Got to Do With It? is in cinemas now.
Article supplied to 96five with thanks to Hope Media.
Feature image: Film publicity
About the Author: Laura Bennett is a media professional, broadcaster and writer from Sydney, Australia.