I'm going to give you the bottom line about this movie right at the start: The Namesake is the best film I've seen in too long. While it won't get the attention it deserves at the awards "shows," it is a film well worth the time spent watching it.
The Namesake focuses on a generational story. Kal Penn stars as Gogol Ganguli, a native born New Yorker. His father is an engineering professor, and his mother a librarian. Both of the parents are Indian immigrants, and their cultural ties to their native country are quite strong. Their children think they are backwards, and act more American than Indian as they grow up. As the family works through crisis, Gogol discovers that he is more Indian than he had realized. Through the cycle of immigration, marriage, birth, and death, we get a glimpse into the divided cultural ties of this Indian family as the story progresses.
The Namesake is well acted, and well scripted. It is fascinating to see how the parents act when they first come to America, and are so excited at natural gas for 24 hours a day, drinking water from a tap, and a laundromat- modern conveniences that most Americans take completely for granted. This film then takes us on an almost three decade journey as the first generation children integrate themselves into American society, while retaining their Indian traditions more than they even realize or would want to admit. One particular revealing scene is when Gogol tells his father that he wants to be an architect, and his father can't comprehend why he doesn't want to be an engineer, like he is. It's kind of interesting when you realize that the father originally wanted his children to grow up in America because they could become anything they wanted to, yet he wanted him to do what he did. There is also plenty of the story devoted to the parents guiding their children to marry not only an Indian spouse, but a Bengali one, which is the region they were from.
If you like films which make you think, develop characters, and provide a multicultural experience, then The Namesake should be on your short list of films to see. In fact, this is one of the few films that I think you need to watch more than once to take in all the nuances.
Overall Grade: A+
Reviewed by Jonas