With his 2006 feature debut, Kidulthood, Menhaj Huda established himself as a promising young director whose best work was probably still to come. It’s a shame to report that with follow-up Everything & Nothing, he still hasn’t quite got there.
The film follows Ash (James Floyd), the teenage son of Pakistani immigrants who push him to study accountancy and set him to work in the family corner shop. It’s a path at odds with his own dreams of becoming a DJ, slowly realised over the course of several club nights with his mates (who include Blue’s Simon Webbe and The Inbetweeners‘ James Buckley).
It’s a well-meaning film (albeit with a few smatterings of casual misogyny) and you can’t accuse the actors of not trying. Floyd, in particular, puts in performance so earnest that you really want him to succeed. But his character just isn’t strong enough to carry the whole film, which is unfortunately what is being asked of him.
Ash is the central figure around a whole host of cross-cultural issues revolve: from the Asian girl who knows her parents won’t accept her non-Muslim boyfriend to the gay guy pushed into marrying his cousin, as well as an impressionable teenager who catches the interest of some radical Muslims. They’re interesting issues to explore, but none of these narrative ideas ever reach their full potential. As a result, their effect on Ash’s sense of conflicting identity (“I come from everywhere and nowhere,” he tells one girl) is a lot weaker than it needs to be.
That, in the end, is the main problem with Everywhere & Nowhere. One can’t help drawing comparisons between this and Bend It Like Beckham – but in Gurinder Chadha’s tale of a Sikh girl torn between family and football, the main character had everything to lose. There’s simply not enough conflict in Everywhere & Nowhere, and as a result that there’s not nearly enough at stake. Ash’s internal struggle manifests itself with him meandering aimlessly around London, looking vaguely troubled. His passion for DJing, meanwhile, is somewhat taken on faith given that he spends relatively little time spinning discs. Perhaps Bend It Like Beckham conveyed this kind of passion more convincingly because football is inherently more interesting to watch than DJing. Even to the most seasoned Ibiza tourist, Ash’s choice of hobby is not exactly a spectator activity.
Despite all of this it would still be unjustified to write Huda off altogether. Everywhere & Nowhere has all the makings of a good film, even if it is rather let down by a couple of dodgy narrative decisions. But it’s a heartfelt, uncynical piece of filmmaking that has potential stamped all over it.
Everywhere & Nowhere is out on DVD on 3rd October 2011.
Director: Menhaj Huda
Stars: James Floyd, Adam Deacon, Simon Webbe, Art Malik
Runtime: 92 mins