The Wedding Guest

First Hit: This is a good dark thriller, but it was the sites where this film was shot, New Delhi, Jaipur, Goa and other cities and towns in India and Pakistan, that made me smile.

The main character Jay (Dev Patel) is introduced while he systematically packs a suitcase and then heads to London Heathrow airport. We know nothing about him, except he looks very stern and on a mission. What we do know is that he’s packing his suitcase he packs several passports. This creates suspicion.

Where is he going? Why does he have multiple passports?

Landing in New Delhi seems to fit and makes it easy to buy into the trip because the actor is Indian. But we soon learn he only speaks English, he’s not from India. Because many Indians speak English, this isn’t an issue. His first order of business is to rent a car, and tells the agent he’ll return it in two weeks.

He spends a short period in New Delhi, but then heads north to Pakistan. Crossing the border, he rents another car and eventually finds a small town where he spies a young lady getting out of a Range Rover.

Adding to the mystery, he then buys two handguns and duct tape. When he is looking at the guns, he seems knowledgeable, and that’s he’s experienced with handguns. In case the audience didn’t know by his demeanor when he was leaving London, we understand now, this isn’t a happy wedding movie. Practicing his shooting skills, we note that he’s serious about what he is about to do and that is, steal the bride.

The bride to be, Samira (Radhika Apte), is marrying someone we never meet. All we know is that Jay seems intent on abducting Samira.

We learn that he’s under contract to do this for someone he’s never met, a wealthy Londoner, played by Jim Sarbh.

Later we find out that Samira and Jim were lovers before her being required to marry a Pakistani man by her family. We think, and it is confirmed later, she hates the idea of marrying this man, so when Jay steals into her room at the groom’s home, gags and handcuffs her, and takes her, she goes along with it.

That all happens in the first half of the film. The remaining half is about how do Jay and Samira find their way back to London? This becomes an issue because, during their escape from the compound, Jay has to kill a guard.

 The unusual depth in this film is that the audience never gets any picture about who Jay is and why he’s doing this. Yes, it seems for the money, but what drove him to do this kind of work – we never know. We do learn more about Samira because she tells Jay how she ended up in Pakistan ready to marry a man she didn’t know or like. And Jim is someone we only know as wanting Samira back in his life; had enough money to hire Jay to do this, and in the end, wasn’t really committed to Samira. Both Samira and Jay are somewhat lost souls finding their way through life, which makes their chemistry work really well.

However, having spent months traveling in India carrying my backpack, I loved the scenes in the streets of Delhi, Jaipur, and on the trains and busses. I intensely experienced all of them, and not only did the director get it right, but it also brought up fond memories of my travels.

Patel was strangely excellent in this role. I liked that he took this role which is generally out of character from his previous film characters. He did an excellent job of making me buy into his purpose and intent. Apte was divine as Samira. She came across as deeply mischievous, beguiling, secretive, and having her own agenda. As she said about her family’s description of her, she is a little “crazy.” Sarbh was strong as the wealthy playboy type guy who was willing to pay for his wish to get Samira back, but there was another agenda that made it compelling in a different way. Michael Winterbottom wrote a deviously dark script and his adept view of how to integrate India was outstanding.

Overall: I really enjoyed this film in both story and visual scenes.