Exploring the new world in `Namesake'

Review B

March 30, 2007|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,Sun Movie Critic

New Age Americans are so determined to be "in the moment" - and so quick to cite it as a tenet of Eastern wisdom - that the Indian-American family drama The Namesake comes as a pleasurable relief. It traces coils of past, present and future that encircle a Bengali Indian husband and wife as they move from Kolkata to Queens, N.Y., and swim ever deeper into the American mainstream.

Making you feel the presence of absences - of the distant and the departed, of dreams that never quite come true - is the key thing that this uneven film of Jhumpa Lahiri's wonderful novel (also called The Namesake) gets exactly right.

Much of that spectral aura glows in the eyes of exquisite, devoted Ashima (Tabu), the heroine of the piece - a woman who creates her own family culture out of everything she discovers in her new world and everything she's left behind. By the end, her homemade Christmas cards are as evocative and full of meaning as any Hindi household gods.

The Namesake (Fox Searchlight) Starring Kal Penn, Tabu, Irrfan Khan, Jacinda Barrett, Zuleikha Robinson. Directed by Mira Nair. Rated PG-13. Time 122 minutes.

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