'Polite Society' Doesn't Follow Coming-of-Age Conventions

Directed by Nida Manzoor

Starring Priya Kansara, Ritu Arya, Nimra Bucha, Akshay Khanna, Jeff Mirza, Shobu Kapoor, Seraphina Beh, Ella Bruccoleri, Shona Babayemi

Photo: Parisa Taghizadeh / Focus Features

BY Matthew Simpson Published Apr 25, 2023

Polite Society hits the ground running, jumping and kicking in the first few minutes, and never lets up its pace or infectious, offbeat energy. It's a mashup of genres and styles, ranging from a coming-of-age tale to a kung fu epic to an Ocean's Eleven-style heist. Still, even with all this going on, director and writer Nida Manzoor never loses sight of the story about sisterly love and confronting change. 

Ria (Priya Kansara) is a teenager who practices martial arts, refers to herself as "The Fury" and dreams of becoming a stuntwoman one day. Lena (Ritu Arya) is her older sister, who has recently moved back home after not finishing art school and hides her existential angst behind unkempt hair and baggy clothes. Neither of these young women are precisely the children their parents (played by Jeff Mirza and Shobu Kapoor) wanted them to be; they wish that Ria would pick a more practical career, and that Lena turn her attention to finding a husband.

It's clear these two share a close bond, with Lena routinely filming Ria's martial arts and stunt videos and consistently encouraging Ria that she can nail that flying kick she has been working so hard to master. So when Lena is swept off her feet by Salim (Akshay Khanna) at a party thrown by his mother Raheela (Nimra Bucha), Ria's immediate reaction is that something isn't quite right about him. She starts investigating and, of course, attempts to derail their budding relationship.

If this sounds like many other coming-of-age movies, the similarities end here. When Ria and her stalwart best friends, Alba and Clara (Ella Bruccoleri and Seraphina Beh, respectively), begin snooping to turn up inconsistencies with Salim and Rahella's story, the movie plays coy with what is real thanks to Ria's vivid imagination and unreliable narration. The best example of this is Bucha's performance, in which she walks a tightrope between being an overbearing mother and a moustache-twirling cartoon villain, as well as the occasional extended kung fu fight scene in which Ria puts her training to use against various opponents.  

The film is full of great performances, and Bruccoleri and Beh are particularly excellent with their rapid-fire one-liners with each other. Kansara, who provides many of the big laughs in the film, and Arya are also standouts in the movie. They are both charismatic, and when they share the screen, their natural chemistry makes their sibling relationship very believable.

With great central performances, downright contagious energy, and a great story about what it means to be family, Polite Society is one not to miss.
(Universal Pictures)

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