We've seen plenty of her on telly in Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No 42, but as All in Good Time shows, we could do with a lot more of Meera Syal on the big screen. The same goes for her co-stars: Harish Patel (Uncle Umed in Corrie and Mr Goshdashtidar in Run Fatboy Run) is a comic genius, while newcomers Amara Karan and Reece Richie show plenty of charm in this comedy-drama about how families can wind each other up but also pull together.
Directed by Nigel Cole (Made in Dagenham, Calendar Girls), it's the story of Atul and Vina (Ritchie and Karan), sexually inexperienced Indian newlyweds who don't have the money for their own home and who have to live with his parents, Eeshwar and Lopa (Patel and Syal). A broken bed and Eeshwar's lack of cop-on mean the wedding night doesn't go quite according to plan, but at least there's the tropical honeymoon the next day to look forward to. Wrong. Arriving at the airport, Atul and Vina discover their travel agent has gone bang, so it's back to the terrace house in Bolton where Eeshwar, his tactlessness, competitive streak and snoring await. If Atul and Vina can get through their first two weeks of married life with Eeshwar for company they'll survive anything. And hopefully there'll be the chance to consummate the marriage while he's downstairs watching Top Gear...
All in Good Time's backstory is a long one. Decades long. Before the film, Syal and Patel played their characters in the stage version Rafta, Rafta (Slowly, Slowly in Urdu), written by East is East creator Ayub Khan-Din and performed at the National Theatre in London. This newlyweds story is also the basis for the 1966 Hayley and John Mills-starring movie The Family Way, which in turn was adapted from the original play - also called All in Good Time - written by Mayo-born, Bolton-raised Bill Naughton. Times pass and mores change, but some things remain dramatic gold: the tensions between fathers and sons, mothers' ability to hold a family together, young people trying to find their way in the world and the secrets that are part of any life. But don't go thinking All in Good Time is too heavy: yes, there are moments of real poignancy here, but Khan-Din's script also has some good laughs and if you're a fan of East is East or Corrie the time will fly.
Syal and Patel's experience in playing their characters night-in, night-out for almost a year on stage has really stood to the movie (and made Cole's job a lot easier). For Lopa (the saint) and Eeshwar (the slob), marriage is all about compromise (she does, he doesn't), but there is real love there, too - and a determination to give some hard-learned wisdom to their son and daughter-in-law. As for Ritchie and Karan, while they don't have the lengthy working relationship of their co-stars, they are completely believable as the perfectly matched pair who face the challenge of going from friends to lovers. You'll cheer on the small steps they take, while also hoping that Eeshwar gets in the way yet again.
In the genre known as 'nice', All in Good Time is a worthy addition, with a real-life authenticity. The family is Indian, but as Irish audiences will discover while watching, the two nations have a lot more in common than just the green, white and orange of a tricolour.