Film Reviews

REVIEW: Meet the Patels

Hot Docs 2014

Meet the Patels
USA, 88 min.
Directed by Geeta V. Patel, Ravi V. Patel
Programme: Love, Factually (World Premiere)

Meet the Patels. Ravi and Geeta are children of conservative Indian parents who enjoy an arranged marriage and hope their kids do the same. The Patel parents have a catalogue of expectations for their children to meet, the least of which is the stipulation that they marry fellow Patels.

Playing the match-making game therefore becomes as difficult as finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. It doesn’t help, either, that Ravi’s previous relationship with Audrey, an American redhead, failed because he still hadn’t told his parents about her after two years of dating.

Ravi’s lovelorn foibles dominate Meet the Patels as Geeta assumes the point of view of the camera and follows him on casual dates, online dates, and blind dates. He submits to his parents’ pressure, which takes Meet The Patels on some humorous dating rituals as wedding season, family conferences, biodata dating (like a résumé bank for matches) and even on a trip to India. Running throughout the courtships, though, is Ravi’s memory of Audrey.

The amusing Meet the Patels offers an uneven family portrait as the matchmaking unfolds through Geeta’s viewfinder. Geeta, Ravi teases, is a terrific director but an amateur cinematographer, and her dark, hand-held camerawork proves him correct. The microphone, which often creeps into the frame, gets more screen time than Geeta herself.

Alternatively, Geeta’s skill as a director (she and Ravi directed the film together) is amply apparent in the inspired animated sequences that punctuate the film. These scenes offer the most dramatically compelling moments of Patels as the siblings confess their innermost fears of failing in love and disappointing their parents. The film’s animated reflections open up a debate on the foundations of love and happiness, and Meet the Patels illustrates the tension of upholding family values in a culture that moves at a greater pace than tradition does. The idiosyncrasies of Meet the Patels are humorously specific, but the themes are universal.

Isabel Bader Theatre
Thurs, May 1, 9:30 PM

Visit POV’s Hot Docs Hub for more reviews and features on the 2014 festival.