Mayfair

2018-11-02 07:27
 
A scene in the move Mayfair.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

In the fourth film from South African director Sara Blecher, one of the country’s most gifted filmmakers, the complexities of family discord and loyalty are interlaced with faith, morality and a life of crime. Blecher places the story of a prodigal son who returns to his home and the crime family he rejected and left behind in the Johannesburg suburb of Mayfair. Zaid (Ronak Patani) soon clashes with his father Aziz (Rajesh Gopie) but must put his moral compass and anger aside when his family faces mortal danger. 


WHAT WE THOUGHT:

Mayfair is a much richer blend of themes than what any genre classification (in this instance it is most likely to be labelled a gangster drama) can completely encompass. Oftentimes, the process of integrating multiple plot points that don’t necessarily serve to further the same theme can become a confusing or tedious viewing experience. But the elements of this story are greatly compelling, and Blecher methodically pulls each of these closer together to eventually become a tight and gripping conclusion. 

The crime element of the film especially draws on the history of Mayfair, defined as an Indian neighbourhood during apartheid, which has since also become home to Somali immigrants. While they share a Muslim culture, Mayfair shows how little that can mean when reaping material riches supplants any and all other similarities or loyalties. A “gang war” of sorts acts as the starting point of the violent downward spiral that Zaid and his family struggle to escape as Aziz’s money-laundering business falls into debt with their Somali rivals.

Blecher directs a talented cast with precision – she clearly had her vision of the film carefully planned out. Patani, a British actor who has starred in movies such as Point Break and The Works, plays Zaid with genuine commitment, taking the character’s perception of himself as a compassionate, well-intentioned man who is nothing like his father to one of disgust, and resigned to his inevitable fate. He delivers a powerful portrayal, one which is, unfortunately, only matched by Wayne van Rooyen (Swartwater, Geraamtes in die Kas) as Zaid’s brother, Mahbeer. As Mahbeer, Van Rooyen emerges as an actor who is hopelessly underutilised on the local scene. 

With a rich backdrop, rich characters, and a rich collection of storylines, the introduction of Zaid’s love interest falls flat. Zaid’s relationship with his family, and his inner conflict, is more than enough to fill the emotional elements of the film, and does nothing to further the story. 

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