SXSW 2020: I'LL MEET YOU THERE -- A Culturally Rich but Contrived Story About a Muslim-American Family
Review by Camden Ferrell
I’ll Meet You There, the newest film from Iram Parveen Bilal, is a family drama that tackles culture, prejudice, and fear. However, this film ultimately feels like a mixed bag. The movie features multiple storylines, some of which are incredibly profound while others feel fairly shallow and unoriginal.
In this movie, Majeed is a policeman in Chicago who is given a career-making case by the FBI. However, he must use the religious devotion of this visiting, estranged father to enter the mosque to complete his case. This all occurs while Majeed’s talented daughter Dua, a ballerina, is preparing to audition for Julliard as she learns more about her culture. This story is one that is perfect for Bilal to tell as it explores a Muslim-American family and their culture.
Bilal’s script, which received help from contributing writers Rajeev Dassani and Uttam Sirur, is adequate. It’s a culturally rich script, and that is what works most for it. It was fascinating to learn more about Islam and their teachings and practices. However, the script also tried to be a police drama at the same time, and it felt really unbalanced and somewhat contrived.
The acting is fair throughout. Majeed is played by Faran Tahir (Iron Man), and he is mostly adequate in his performance. There are times where he can sometimes overact and make the movie feel a little too cliché and cheesy for my tastes. Qavi Khan also gives a decent performance as his father, but the real star is Nikita Tewani who plays Dua. She has a fantastic screen presence, and the way she finds her stride in moments of dance and personal exploration is very well-done.
The best part of this movie was Dua learning more about the culture she had been kept away from. This story isn’t an original one, but the way Bilal tells it is interesting. We watch as Dua learns about the teachings of the Quran and begins to question how they fit in a modern context. We also get to see her learn Kathak, and this is the best part of the movie.
However, the other storylines are not nearly as strong. They deal with the themes of oppression and prejudice, and while the film’s intent is noble, these are ideas that are derivative. These issues are serious, but the way the movie throws it into the narrative feels slightly cheap at times. The movie could have done more to explore the religion rather than creating an unoriginal storyline about a mosque that may be involved with terrorism.
Despite this, there are some surprises and emotional moments to enjoy from this movie. Most of them come from Dua’s story, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. The movie succeeds most when it’s trying to be a natural story about cultural exploration and personal growth, but it spends a little too much time elsewhere.
I’ll Meet You There is a culturally rich story with some overused themes. There are some decent performances and great music in this family drama. This movie shows promise for Bilal’s career as a filmmaker.
I’ll Meet You There was set to debut at the cancelled 2020 SXSW Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.