The Namesake

This was the opening night film at Cinequest 17, the San Jose film festival. After the head of the festival thanked the sponsors and gave us a brief preview of the festival, the director of The Namesake, Mira Nair, came out to introduce the film. Apparently she read the book it was based on when she was at a very similar point in her life (she said more, but frankly it was a bit of a spoiler), and she knew immediately that she had to make the film. Nine months later she was filming.

Unfortunately the screening was marred by several periods of severe audio problems, making the dialog mostly unintelligible for a few minutes at a time. I heard afterwards that the print arrived only 2 hours before the showing, and that perhaps it was to blame for the problems. So it’s possible that with a more uneventful screening my opinion might be higher than it is. And actually, even with those problems, I enjoyed the film, but it was a minor disappointment when compared with Monsoon Wedding, one of the director’s prior films.

The film is basically the story of Indian immigrants Ashoke and Ashima, and their son Gogol, who was named after a Russian author Nikolai Gogol. It takes place primarily in New York, but with substantial segments in Calcutta, India. Ashoke and Ashima remain distinctly Indian, while Gogol (or Nick, as he often prefers to be called) is completely American, at least through his high school and college years. The multi-cultural feeling that was so marvelous in Monsoon Wedding is mostly present here as well, though it feels slightly more heavy handed. I suspect that perhaps the director’s passion for the material might have clouded her judgement just a bit.

I’ll give it 3 stars out of 4 stars, though it’s possible that it could have been slightly higher if the screening had not been sub-par.

Seen 2/28/2007 at the California Theater in San Jose, CA.

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