Film Critic

Chuck Koplinski is The News-Gazette's film critic. His email is and you can follow him on Twitter (@ckoplinski).

'What's Love Got to Do With it?'

Shazad Latif plays Kazim and Lily James plays Zoe Stevenson in 'What's Love Got to Do with It?' (2022).

While Howard Hawks’ “Red River” is considered a seminal western, there has always been some question as to whether its ending works. Character attitudes and motivations suddenly change, and what was destined to be a tragic ending suddenly turns out fine for all concerned. Yet, that doesn’t prevent the film from being considered a classic. You give it a pass because, though the last five minutes make little sense, the rest of it is done so well, you forgive Hawks his narrative sins.

Keeping that in mind, I’m wondering exactly how to take Shekhar Kapur’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”, a rom-com that limps out of the gate and meanders to the point of tedium during its second act but finishes strong, the film shifting gears to provide a powerful, poignant ending to an otherwise average genre exercise.

Having grown up next door to one another, Kazim and Zoe (Shazad Latif and Lily James) have been friends all their lives. Though they’ve never dated, their relationship is still an intimate one, many secrets and feelings shared over the years. Kazim drops a bombshell when he informs Zoe that he has decided to enter an arranged marriage. Though the custom is an ancient one, it has a distinct 21st-century twist. Referred to as an “assisted marriage” and facilitated through agencies such as the “Matrimonial Advice Bureau,” there is a larger demand for this sort of situation than you’d imagine.

As a documentary filmmaker, Zoe knows a good subject when she sees one and convinces Kazim to allow her to record his journey from bachelor to groom. He reluctantly agrees, and soon the pair, along with his family, are off to Lahore to meet the bride-to-be, Maymouna (Sajal Ali). It’s certainly not love at first sight, but there’s the hope they will grow closer as time goes by. Meanwhile, Zoe is mulling her future with James (Oliver Chris), a nice enough veterinarian her mother, Cath (Emma Thompson), keeps trying to hook her up with.

Working from a screenplay by journalist and documentary filmmaker Jemima Khan, the film isn’t above tipping its cap to various genre entries it pays homage to, “When Harry Met Sally” and “Love Actually” the most obvious. If nothing else, Kapur and Khan at least steal from the best, going so far as having Zoe employ the device of couples recounting how they first met for the camera, as Rob Reiner did in “Harry.” These moments are effective as they allow the filmmakers to fold in various perspectives from both the English and Pakistani cultures regarding matrimony.

These scenes are the only ones that keep us engaged for most of the movie. They prove surprising and moving, running counter to the predictable steps Kazim and Zoe are required to take. While the cultural differences between them are touched upon, they aren’t delved into as deeply as they should. Similarly, Zoe’s self-destructive choices where her dating life is concerned are glimpsed but never explored. The frustration caused by this approach tempts disengagement.

And yet, the finale is quite something. it’s as if the film finally finds its footing when its characters are forced to come to terms with their lives of denial. A reunion is rendered while the ultimate pairing of the two principals doesn’t feel contrived or forced. In the end, “Love” is a miscalculation on Kapur and Khan’s part; they should have focused on Kazim and Zoe’s relationship, not the dull machinations that led to it.

‘What’s Love Got to Do with It?’ ★★½ Cast: Shazad Latif, Iman Boujelouah, Lily James, Emma Thompson, Pakiza Baig, Jeff Mirza, Shabana Azmi and Asim Chaudhry. Directed by Shekhar Kapur; produced by Nicky Barnes, Time Bevan and Eric Fellner; screenplay by Jemima Khan. A Shout! Studios release. 108 minutes. Rated PG-13 (language, suggestive material). At Normal Theater and through Video-On-Demand.

For DVR alerts, film recommendations and movie news, follow Koplinski on Twitter @ckoplinski. His email is