Having never grown up in the United Kingdom (let alone during the 1970s) or had a childhood friend of Indian descent, it's safe to say that the charm of Anita and Me (2002) may have gotten slightly lost in translation. Similar in tone and approach to popular favorites like East Is East and Bend It Like Beckham, Anita and Me manages to breeze by during its brief 92-minute running time. Though I can't say it stuck with me afterwards, it's still got a certain spark that may appeal to fans of nostalgic, coming-of-age films.
Even so, it's a film with a few faults; mainly, the uneven performance of the two leads. Newcomer Chandeep Uppal plays "Meena", a young Indian girl whose family has relocated to Northern England; a village in the East Midlands, specifically. The enthusiastic 12 year-old longs to be more like Anita (played by Anna Brewster) in every way---blonde, sophisticated, popular---although plenty of culture clashes stand in her way. Their performances, while often decent enough to keep things moving, don't really hold their weight like they really need to. From Uppal's excessive voice-over narration (which seems to get slightly more grating as the film progresses) to Brewster's often wooden personality, we're left wondering who's actually emulating who.
Thankfully, the supporting cast adds a bit to the story---not so much for their characters, but how they're played. They balance the comedy and drama much better than their younger counterparts, keeping the story moving along at a steady pace. The same can't be said for the vintage atmosphere of Anita and Me, however: the awkward 1970s-era backdrop of the story serves no apparent purpose, other than an excuse to focus on the music of that era. It's not a choice completely without merit, but it might drive away more viewers than it actually attracts. Even so, those in the right mindset should still enjoy the lighthearted humor and carefree nature of the story. Even with its faults, ot boasts a (relatively) unique story told from a unique perspective…and that's gotta count for something, right?
Though geared towards a very specific demographic, Anita and Me should appeal to those who enjoy good-natured, nostalgic dramas with a touch of comedy. It may not have enough staying power to hold up to repeat viewings, which isn't helped much by the barebones Region 1 DVD treatment we're getting. Despite boasting a relatively strong technical presentation, this lightweight disc is devoid of any informative bonus features, which hurts any chances of understanding just what the director was aiming for. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Audio is presented in its original English and available in Dolby 2.0, 5.1 Surround and DTS options, a surprising array of mixes for such a dialogue-driven film. Even so, the audio is crisp and clear in its own right, so fans of the film shouldn't be disappointed. Optional English subtitles are also included.
The menu designs (seen above) are surprisingly simple and somber, but at least they're easy enough to navigate. The 92-minute main feature has been divided into 16 chapters, while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. The packaging is simple and straightforward, as this one-disc release is housed in a standard black keepcase with no included inserts of any kind.
Unfortunately, the lack of extras makes it harder to appreciate Anita & Me on its own terms; all we get here is the film's Theatrical Trailer presented in anamorphic widescreen. An audio commentary with the cast and crew would've been most welcome---especially since other regions were given a much more well-rounded set of bonus features.
Light and breezy though ultimately forgettable, Anita & Me is nonetheless a warm coming-of-age tale that may appeal to younger audiences. The film's oddly complex premise and vintage atmosphere almost muddle the competent performances of its stars, though audiences in the correct mindset shouldn't have any trouble suspending disbelief. While a solid technical presentation makes Anita & Me a strong movie-only disc, fans of the film will be disappointed the lack of extras on this Region 1 disc. The total package may appeal to a certain demographic, but the relatively lightweight nature of Anita & Me ultimately makes it a decent weekend disc and little more. Rent It.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys debating trivial matters and writing things in third person.