ITS A WONDERFUL AFTER LIFE
It's a Wonderful After Life is an exceedingly easy comedy. It has largely been premised on taking the staples of the lightweight fantasy comedy about a mortal haunted/harassed by ghosts see the likes of Topper (1937) and sequels, which is fairly much the template for this genre, The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947) and modern variants such as Heart and Souls (1993), The Frighteners (1996) and Ghost Town (2008). Gurinder Chadha has uplifted the ghost comedy staple and set it in the world of Londons Southall district, which is informally known as Little India due to its predominantly Southeast Asian population. There seems something undeniably autobiographical about the film on Gurinder Chadhas part. She too grew up in the Southall district. Without wishing to be unkind, you also cannot help but speculate about how much of the character of Roopi in the film, worrying about never being married because she is overweight, is autobiographical to Chadha who is herself a plus-size woman.
It's a Wonderful After Life is more amiable than it is ever a particularly good film. Everything falls into place with an eminent predictability. From the first 3-4 scenes where Sendhil Ramamurthy is introduced, you can predict that he is going to end up with supposedly unmarriageable daughter Goldy Notay by the end of the film. Notays story arc is one that comes by the book of cliches the entire way how she falls in love with the perfect man, makes a transformation from frumpy to attractive, thinks she has been betrayed due to a set of misunderstandings and is then won back just as the film closes. Gurinder Chadas failings might be that she never makes anything particularly funny out of the material, nor pushes it in any unexpected directions. The film is also peculiarly notable for featuring a leading character that murders multiple people throughout the story yet whose actions come with a complete lack of censure on the part of the filmmakers. The detective hero never seem overly concerned about this, while the police investigation is there largely only to drive the two romantic leads together. Even when Mrs Sethi (Shabana Azmk) is pushed to make the interesting choice between suicide and a jail cell, the ending cops out and produces a previously unmentioned cancer diagnosis she has been suffering from in order to happily wind the story up without complication.
The most bizarre comedic moment emphasis on the bizarre more than the comedic is the scene at the wedding banquet where an embarrassed Sally Hawkins is covered in vindaloo just as though it were blood and conjures up psychic powers (we are never sure what they are as she suddenly manifests them out of the blue and they are never referred to or explained anywhere else) and starts throwing food about in a conflagration that is designed as a parody of Carrie (1976). It is a scene that feels so bizarrely out of place that it could almost have strayed in from another film altogether.
The film is well cast for the most part. Gurinder Chada brings together an amazingly large Indian cast, including well-known British nationals of Indian extraction such as Sanjeev Bhaskar, Jimi Mistry and Ace Bhatti. The male lead is American-born East Indian actor Sendhil Ramamurthy, better known as Suresh in the US tv series Heroes (2006-10). On screen here, Ramamurthy does a fine job in projecting a handsome leading man certainty and charm. One of the surprise scene-stealers is Sally Hawkins who sparkles appealingly with a chirpy East London accent and a ditzy belief in Indian mysticism. It is an exceedingly lightweight role but Hawkins does well with it. Goldy Notay is a largely unknown Anglo-Indian actress who seems maybe a too mellow and passive in a leading role where she ends up being out-acted by most of those around her.
Film online in several parts beginning here:-