2006
Rated: PG-13 for nudity, some sexual content, and adult language.
Genre: Drama Romance
Directed By: Mira Nair
Running Time: 2:02
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 11/13/07
Special Features:
 
THE NAMESAKE

 

At what cost, pride? Thatís the basic undercurrent presented by Mira Nairís commentary of westernization and the new generationís inability to recognize the roots of their culture and present some acknowledgement all in the pursuit to fit into an image they feel they must obtain. Thatís the problem with the character Gogol, who meets a beautiful British woman and takes on a whole new attitude once the subject of his culture is brought up. Gogol isnít ashamed of where he stems from, heís just in the mindset that it isnít that much of a point of interest, especially as loses all grasp of his identity, even calling himself Nick from the second name given to him Nikhil. ďThe NamesakeĒ though is more about the struggles of the foreign low class family to make a life for themselves in the land of prosperity and pay the price of losing their culture and heritage in the process, and thatís examined through their children Gogol and Sonia.

Much like the tale of ďMi Familia,Ē Nairís take on displaced culture and adaptation to Western civilization first tells the story of two arranged individuals Ashima and Ashoki, both very reluctant people who were betrothed much to the insistence of their families in an awkward ceremony and migrated to America to live the life of a simple suburban family.  

Nair sets on the story of these two people who had to conform to American standards and expectations much to the chagrin of their own familial pride, and it sadly carried on to their children who became homegrown Americans in spite of the insistence that they remember their culture. The picture of Nikhil, a boy who grew up in America and simply didnít want to adhere to the routines and traditions of his culture, is never as black and white as Nair could have depicted it. Nikhil is sympathetic, even though he abandoned the respect of his family because he feels that he has to conform. Like any American, he feels the need to be accepted and avoid the biases and prejudices of his new country by conforming and attempting to mix into the masses as much as possible.

Penn's performance, among many notables, is purely exceptional and he really plays well off the rest of the seasoned cast. Sometimes the immigration of a family to another region of the world works like an organism; if the unit does not evolve, it may die, and the character of Ashima seemed to have the foresight to recognize this even in the face of Ashoki seeking opportunities for his family, which ultimately come to turn on him in the end as his children detached from their bonds. ďThe NamesakeĒ is at first a story of Westernization and then the story of the struggle for identity prior to Westernization. Itís an elegant and engrossing take on the modern youth and rites of passage from Nair.

Exceptional performances, and a fascinating commentary on adapting in a foreign society and the price of culture in the face of conformity make Nair's "The Namesake" a fascinating and gripping drama on the search for identity.

 

 

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