Hurrah, hurrah, a low-budget British film that doesn’t make me want to shriek ‘what fresh hell is this?’ and run from the cinema, Love + Hate is the feature debut of Dominic Savage, a love story set in a Britain that all of us can recognise, and, hopefully, relate to.
Naseema (Awan) is a Muslim teenager in a non-specific Northern town. As a Pakistani girl, she is protected by her family, particularly her father (Rafique), a cab driver, and overbearing big brother Yousif (Zakir). Naseema is excited and nervous – she’s got a job, and is looking forward to her first day at a local DIY shop. Her colleagues include Michelle (Burley), a cheery, outgoing little thing, and Adam (Hudson), one of gang of racist thugs who amuse themselves by beating up 'Pakis'. Adam is disgusted that Naseema has been given a job and seethes, refusing to speak to her.
Michelle’s social life consists of hanging out with friends in the middle of town, wearing the shortest of short skirts, and being picked up by boys. One evening, she is picked up by Yousif, and what starts as a sex thing turns into a covert relationship, hidden from both their families. Meanwhile Adam realises that, despite himself, he is attracted to Naseema (which is understandable as she’s very pretty). He confesses all to his friend Shane (Michael McNulty), who has been shunned by the gang since admitting to finding Asian women attractive. Finally plucking up the courage to ask Naseema out, Adam bottles it, but finally they meet properly and talk, and fall in love.
But Yousif, despite his own relationship with Michelle, is suspicious of Naseema, and starts following her. Can love’s young dream survive, or will reality burst the bubble?
The screening of Love + Hate (that little plus sign, doubtless a tribute to Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo + Juliet, also borrowed by Tristan + Isolde, and indicating a cool hipness coupled to a passionate tale of star-crossed lovers) was introduced by the director who, wearing a horrible jumper, explained that most of the cast were first timers and non-actors. Special pleading aside, this was really unnecessary, as most of the cast acquit themselves well, with raw, affecting performances. The standout performance is Burley’s, partly because she is the only character who seems to have any fun – the subject matter of the film being rather serious and potentially glum, she is a welcome relief.
The tragedy of the story is the trammelled, constricted lives these people lead. Adam comes from a reasonably wealthy family, judging by their flat, but he doesn’t dream of going to college or improving himself; Naseema’s parents, going against stereotypes, don’t seem to have any aspirations for their children – when Yousif confides his hopes to Michelle, they are so simple – a family, a home, security. They seem to live in a very small, petty, unpleasant world, with nowhere to go and nothing to do – Michelle and Yousif meet in carparks, Naseems and Adam on derelict land – the very landscape imitating their hopelessness. If the story occasionally becomes cliched, it still feels more real than most recent Britflicks.
This being a melodrama, the script has some cheesy moments, and there are a few too many montages underscored by Snow Patrol and Keane, but generally speaking this is a sweet and innocent retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story which deserves to find an audience.