Edinburgh Jamie Neish

Edinburgh 2017: Halal Daddy review

★★★☆☆

This culture clash comedy in the vein of late 1990s classic East Is East is warm-hearted, funny and light-footed. Raghdan (Nikesh Patel) lives in Sligo, where he moved from Bradford a few years ago to live with his uncle Jamal (Paul Tylak).

He leads a quiet life, staying out surfing and drinking with his mates, and trying to make a relationship work with Maeve (Sarah Bolger). But he has no direction, no clear idea of what he wants to do or where he wants to go. Enter his father, Amir (Art Malik), who’s travelled across from Bradford to see him. Keen to help him out, Amir buys a closed-down factory in the hopes of turning it into Ireland’s destination for halal meat. He even hires Maeve’s dad (Colm Meaney), which suggests to Raghdan that he may have changed from the hard, selfish man he once was. But lo and behold, Amir’s true intentions soon come to light, leaving Raghdan in a tricky situation. 
With a host of sincere performances from its cast that raise it beyond its fairly rote premise, Halal Daddy is a feel-good film that’s in turns about Raghdan coming of age and the various attempts between himself and Amir to express their love for one another, despite their differing thoughts on life, work and honour. The beautiful landscape of Sligo in the Republic of Ireland provides a picturesque backdrop that helps express the strong theme of community support that spreads across the whole film. Conor McDermottroe, who directed and co-wrote the script with Mark O’Halloran (also starring in the film as Omar), imbues the film with warmth and affectionate for small town life. 
The abattoir that Amir buys is integral to the town, and its reopening sees the locals re-energised, none more so than Meaney’s Martin, Maeve’s dad, who has a nice arc of his own as a subplot that coalesces with Raghdan’s. Meaney is a pro, and his performance is true to life of a man initially shut out and left behind (at the start he’s seen as quite bitter and broken), offered a second chance. Indian Summers‘ actor Patel is well cast as Raghdan, a typical twentysomething who’s respectful of his religion, but also keen to have a normal life, travel the world, without the want for some of the things his father, who’s more tied into his religion, wants for him. 
Malik is strong as well, sharing nice chemistry with Patel. Halal Daddy may suffer from sticking too closely to its sweet, upbeat tone (the film never delves too deep, nor turns too dark). But it’s funny – the comedy coming from religious stereotypes and Deirdre O’Kane’s pearls of wisdom as Raghdan’s adoptive aunt – and pleasant enough to win over a lot of people.

Jamie Neish | @JamieNeish