Shan Khan’s debut feature film, Honour, is an expose of honor killings in contemporary Britain— a reality not easily digested.
The story’s focus is Mona (Alysha Hart), a beautiful young British-Pakistani woman from an orthodox Muslim family. When Mona decides to run away with her Punjabi beau, Tanvir (Nikesh Patel), Mona’s mother (Harvey Virdi) and older brother Kasim (Faraz Ayub) feel betrayed and humiliated. In order to restore the family honor, the scheming duo hires an un-named bounty hunter (Paddy Considine) to kill Mona.
Khan’s film is ambitious in terms of storytelling, content, and character and, as such, is strategically complicated. What this means is that viewers must pay careful attention each step of the way, or they will miss something and get very lost. What’s readily apparent is that the story is not told in a linear fashion. This is seen at the beginning, when Mona’s murder appears to proceed in the family living room, before viewers have a chance to meet and understand the character. To perplex viewers further, this scene plays out in varying forms, later in the film, but is always vividly realistic.
In terms of characters, everyone seems sketchy and unlikable, with the possible exception of the complex Mona, a woman who’s simultaneously the fragile victim and an iron force. Special accolades should go to Harvey Virdi for her portrayal of the most calculating and vicious of all cinematic mothers, however neatly disguised, in morality and religion, she appears. Mona has two brothers. The seething Kasim (Faraz Ayub) is the most explosive and psychopathic of the two and, ironically, is employed as a cop. The younger brother, Adel (Shubham Saraf), and Mona’s boyfriend, Tanvir (Nikesh Patel), are both weak characters, and tend to be very easily manipulated by Kasim. What’s particularly distasteful about Tanvir, however, is how easily he turns on Mona to save his own skin.
Then there’s the bounty hunter, that seemingly impenetrable character who’s in a class all his own. What we surmise about him, based upon a certain tattoo, is that he’s either a neo-nazi, or a white supremacist sympathizer. But much like Mona, all is not apparent in the bounty hunter’s persona, so be prepared for the extraordinary.
While I like most aspects of Honour, including a suspense factor that never dissipates, outstanding lighting ploys and camera work, I think that the final scene is much too long. There are several intervals where the film could or should have ended, but unfortunately dialogue continues on. This somewhat weakens the plot, but certainly not the surprise ending, which makes up for everything.
All in all, I think Honour is a very good film that should be seen. Khan points out cultural, social and familial issues that are unfortunately part of our world. Though what we see in the film is extreme, Honour encourages us to examine how we perceive religion, reputation and love, and whether we use their lessons for good, or something else. And in spite of Honour’s definite dark side, the film does have its softer moments, with occasional, and much-needed, comic relief. Again, you’ll have to look carefully for these scenes, but they are there.