The Wedding Guest review: You would be forgiven for thinking that a film with the title of The Wedding Guest would be a delightful romantic comedy featuring big-name Hollywood actors. Right? Well, no. You have the big name Hollywood actor in Dev Patel, but this is as far from what the title would suggest completely.

The Wedding Guest review
Image credit: Courtesy of TIFF

The Wedding Guest review [TIFF]

The film opens in the UK, Dev Patel’s character seen packing for a trip abroad. His suitcase choices are a little strange – what appears to be a woman’s blouse, flip-flops, and other associated clothing. He heads to an unnamed airport and flies to Karachi, Pakistan. We see him buy a gun, some duck tape, cable ties and hires a car before heading off across-country – his destination a wedding, where a young girl by the name of Radhika Apte is set to tie the know. On the night before the wedding, Patel’s character – who goes by a variety of different names throughout the film – we never discover his real one (Jay is the name given to him in the credits, so we’ll go with that) – kidnaps the young girl from a security compound and bundles her initially against her will. She was obviously about to go through with an arranged marriage, so Jay agrees to take her back – if that’s what she wants. She doesn’t – a huge relief to him as he’s got a $10,000 payday if she’s delivered safely to a specific place across the border in India.

There’s more too it than that – a bag full of diamonds come into the fray further down the road – as well as a few other surprises for us as the couple slowly start to fall in love whilst traveling across the country stopping in cheap hotels, eating in roadside restaurants, and retaining their anonymity whilst heading towards their final destination; the backpackers’ tropical paradise of Goa.

The film has a beautiful warm glow to it – a very nice way of capturing a couple of beautiful countries. The first half is hugely engrossing, the narrative playing out slowly, for the most part, during the first reel, almost dialogue-free with Patel’s Jay the only character on screen, stopping only briefly to speak to vendors as he makes his way to the first stop on his mission. You completely buy into Patel’s performance – his second great turn here at Toronto following his very different role in Hotel Mumbai. His role as Jay shows off his wonderful acting talent, and the Bonnie to his Clyde, Radhika Apte matches him easily.

Related: Hotel Mumbai review [TIFF]

Often violent, the film isn’t your conventional love-story – after all, the film is directed by seasoned British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom, who takes on a journey worth taking, even though it all starts to fizzle out as the story progresses into the second half.

The final third is a particularly predictable as the end of the road beckons, but by that point, you don’t mind as you’re fully invested with the pair and the epic route they’ve chosen to travel. Its intriguing plot pulls you so far in that you’re willing to stick with it, no matter what, and although it’s unlikely to leave a huge lasting impression, you’ll be glad to have invested your time and energy, and took the journey, even if it is purely for the pretty visuals and acting flair on show.

The Wedding Guest review by Paul Heath, September 2018.

The Wedding Guest was reviewed at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. Click here for all of our coverage.

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The Wedding Guest