Movie review: ‘It’s a Wonderful Afterlife’

Writer-producer Gurinder Chadha has enjoyed much success in finding humor, touched with sentiment and poignancy, in life in Britain’s Indian communities, most notably with her international hit “Bend It Like Beckham,” about the plight of an Anglo-Indian girl obsessed with playing soccer but plagued by disapproving traditional parents. While her latest, “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife,” is affectionate and energetic, its comic premise seems too silly, and at times, too tedious, to hope for much cross-cultural appeal, despite a fine, committed cast.

“It’s a Wonderful Afterlife”: A review of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife” in the Oct. 8 Calendar section said the picture was unrated. The film carries an MPAA rating of PG-13 for drug content and comic violent images. —

Shabana Azmi, for more than 35 years one of India’s most accomplished and best-known actresses, goes the drab route as a conservative widow who lives in a spacious Tudor-style home in London with two teenage sons and her adult daughter, Roopi (Goldy Notay), a plump, outspoken social worker. Azmi’s Mrs. Sethi is constantly trying to arrange a marriage for her plain daughter with those who have young male relatives only to meet rejection of the utmost cruelty for both her and Roopi. So outraged is Mrs. Sethi that, drawing upon her culinary skills, she starts murdering these nasty types, who immediately come back to haunt her.

Not surprisingly, a London cop ( Mark Addy) notices that Roopi has some contact with the serial killer’s victims and orders his handsome young partner ( Sendhil Ramamurthy) to pursue Roopi to get the goods on her. His attentions, however, turn her into a swan — and that’s just the beginning of complications. While Chadha’s humor is gentle, and not without a sense of absurdity, here it’s too broad and strained for her film to sustain it.

“It’s a Wonderful Afterlife.” MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. Playing at the Naz 8, Lakewood.