Top critical review
12 people found this helpful
Likeable, but ultimately doesn't hit the spot
on 11 January 2009
Fans of lesbian-themed films will be aware, firstly, that such films are generally thin on the ground, and that secondly, finding a decent effort amongst that limited number of offerings can be something of a challenge. "Nina's Heavenly Delights" is better than most lesbian flicks out there, but it still doesn't quite hit the mark. It is a sweet, likeable film but not one which genuinely moves the viewer.
Nina Shah (Shelley Conn, probably best known for her role in the BBC drama "Mistresses", which has been sold with some success around the world) comes home to Glasgow after three years in London. She has been absent from the family home since ditching her fiance Sanjay on the morning they were to be married, but returns after the apparently sudden death of her father. She finds that, owing to her father losing a badly-judged bet, half the family restaurant is now owned by her old schoolmate, Lisa (Laura Fraser) and her family. The film misses the chance for any intriguing conflict with Lisa and makes her a character entirely sympathetic to Nina and her family's problems, going along with Nina's plan to enter a curry competition her father had previously won on two occasions, in order to try to obtain the "hat trick" for the family restaurant. As they prepare for the competition, Nina and Lisa develop romantic feelings for each other.
Whilst the premise of "Nina's Heavenly Delights" is not terrible, the story and script choose to skip over any real potential for drama. The effect is a curiously uninvolving viewing experience. I can appreciate that this film is aiming for "feel-good" and does not want to portray the much-seen family conflict arising from a child coming out as gay and instead aims to depict a more accepting environment. However, the film is badly in need of real tension. Removing this from the plot point where it might be expected to arise, the issue of Nina (and Lisa's) sexuality and developing relationship, would be fine if other drama took its place. But no real tension ever materialises. It's difficult to care too much about the curry competition and whilst an attempt is made to give every member of Nina's family a secret and then reveal them in turn, it never really feels like very much is at stake for the characters.
Laura Fraser tries to create chemistry with Shelley Conn and on occasion manages it, but Conn looks somewhat uncomfortable. That might be less with being asked to play lesbian than to play Glaswegian, as her accent wobbles all over the place at times - and she's not the only one. Art Malik and Ronny Jhutti, as father-and-son restauranteurs (there is a joke for viewers familiar with Malik's work in that the family curry house is called "The Jewel in the Crown") who also happen to be would-be suitors of two generations of Shah women, also have decidedly changeable accents.
The addition of Nina's drag artist friend, Bobbi, is diverting and ups the camp quota somewhat but uses up time that could have been far better spent fleshing out Nina or Lisa's characters, or their romance.
Overall, this is a film that I want to like, but which gives me as a viewer little to invest in or to care about. Nina must in some ways be an interesting person to have ditched her family and bolted for all those years, but we see little evidence here. There are hints that Lisa may well have harboured a crush on Nina for some time, but this isn't pursued, either. It's enjoyable to see a happy lesbian romance being central to a film, and the overall positivity of this film means that it does succeed in being watchable and reasonably likeable. But "Nina's Heavenly Delights", in trying to show the lighter side of life, ultimately succeeds in showing little of substance. Perhaps it is ironic that a film with so many curry references is badly in need of more spice.