“Without honor, life is nothing.” So goes the phrase Pakistani Muslims in London live by. A note at the end of this dark, chilling but confusing thriller informs us that more than 5,000 Muslim girls are murdered yearly for defying tradition, absorbing too much Western culture and blending too easily into Western civilization. Honour is about one of them.
Written and directed by: Shan Khan
Aiysha Hart delivers a mesmerizing performance as a beautiful Pakistani immigrant raised in England who disgraces her family by planning an elopement with a handsome preppie Punjabi boy. Eschewing headscarves for trendy hairdos and preferring burgers and fries to curry and chutney, Mona has adapted much too fast to a freethinking society’s rebellion against repression and ancient tradition. After her own mother and older brother try to kill her, Mona runs away from home and goes into hiding. In their determination to separate two cultures and prevent the mixing of bloodlines, they hire a bounty hunter to find her. The fine British actor Paddy Considine, best known for his work as the heartbreaking Irish father in Jim Sheridan’s excellent film In America, plays the hired assassin, but before he can bring Mona’s heart to her mother as proof that his assignment has been successfully completed, he complicates his duties by falling for the girl himself.
Written and directed by Shan Khan, Honour has good intentions. It illuminates the dark alleys and dimly lit working class pubs where people engage in confusing discussions of the changing nature of crime in the U.K. while wolfing down sausages and beans on toast. It also provides a fascinating glimpse into the homes and lives of London’s Muslim immigrants who populate the community of Southall, where tourists never roam. Filmed half in English, half in Arabic, it has an air of authenticity so compelling you can almost smell the spicy odors of Pakistani cooking that permeate the kitchens. Unfortunately, the movie is too authentic for its own good, rendering at least 75 percent of the spoken dialogue incomprehensible.
But if you stay with it, you might find plodding through its drawbacks worth the trouble, because Honour is about a subject rarely addressed on the screen, even in foreign films—the clash between two opposing cultures as experienced by a girl trapped in the middle of both, but belonging to neither.