The Wedding Guest Review

The Wedding Guest
Arriving in Pakistan, Jay (Dev Patel) arrives at a wedding not with a present but with a plan to kidnap the bride, Samira (Radhika Apte) so she can escape the clutches of an arranged marriage and be with her love, Deepesh (Jim Sarbh).

by Ian Freer |
Updated on
Release Date:

19 Jul 2019

Original Title:

The Wedding Guest

It might sound like the kind of romcom Katherine Heigl might have starred in during the mid noughties, but The Wedding Guest is a very different kind of beast. Instead, writer-director Michael Winterbottom has produced a lacklustre thriller that, despite some good performances from the two leads, doesn’t find the textures or ways to elevate the genre in the way you’d expect from the protean filmmaker.

The Wedding Guest

As thrillers go, The Wedding Guest doesn’t get going in a hurry. We get a patient, engaging build-up as Jay (Patel) travels from London to Pakistan, with Winterbottom building up the interest with intriguing details: he hires cars using four different passports, buys two different guns, a roll of duct tape and a suitcase on wheels. His motives are still not clear when he arrives at a wedding where the kids quiz him about England (“Is Leicester beautiful?” “Very beautiful”), but it soon becomes evident he has been hired to ‘kidnap’ Samira (Apte) from an arranged marriage and deliver her to boyfriend Deepesh (Sarbh) in Amritsar.

What develops is an under-powered Hitchcockian pot boiler with shifting loyalties, dubious motives and multiple twists and turns as the couple travel across the country by car, train and — at one point — moped. Winterbottom doesn’t really deliver on the thriller elements of the story — it’s a film that feels less gripping as it goes along — but also doesn’t really explore the character dimensions or thematic ideas around the sexual politics in Pakistan either. It’s fun to see Dev Patel play a character with edge and shadows — he does a good job — and Radhika Apte flourishes as the movie progresses. But, after such a promising start, it’s just a shame that the sense of tension and excitement goes AWOL pretty quickly.

Despite good performances and an interesting milieu, The Wedding Guest doesn’t deliver as an exciting genre piece or thought-provoking drama. Michael Winterbottom is a master in many areas but the thriller seems beyond him this time.
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