Winterbottom’s moody ‘Wedding Guest’
Nothing is initially as it seems in The Wedding Guest (three out of four stars), the latest film from the versatile writer/producer/director Michael Winterbottom, which stars producer Dev Patel in the title role of Jay, a British Muslim tourist who comes to Pakistan to attend a wedding.
He’s not a guest, however; he’s been contracted to kidnap the bride (Radhika Apte’s Samira) on the eve of the wedding, which he carries out with cool, methodical precision – despite having to kill a man during the act.
The abduction is not politically motivated, as it turns out. Jay has actually rescued her from an arranged marriage at the behest of her secret lover Deepesh (Jim Sarbh). But news of her abduction and the murder brings on a case of what might be called “buyer’s remorse.” Having gotten Samira out of Pakistan and into India, Deepesh now wants Jay to take her back to Pakistan, as quickly and quietly as possible, without attracting further attention.
As the pieces of the plot fall into place and the overall story gets clearer, The Wedding Guest loses some of the simmering tension it had carefully established at the beginning and becomes somewhat more conventional. But there’s good work from Patel, who brings a brooding stoicism to his enigmatic role, and the alluring Apte, whose Samira is clearly not as helpless or naïve as she seemed. She could almost be described as a femme fatale, although she’s less devious than simply interested in self-preservation.
The Wedding Guest is by no means a perfect film or even a great one, but it is a compulsively watchable one, populated by interesting characters who retain an air of mystery throughout. We spend time with them, and we understand them, but we don’t necessarily know them.
– The Wedding Guest opens Friday
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. © 2019, Mark Burger.