As anyone born to first-generation parents will tell you, it’s a difficult road to travel, with the feeling of often being caught between two cultures and, as actor Ravi Patel puts it, “leading a double life.” I went into Meet the Patels, a so-called romantic comedy that really plays out more like a documentary, with some trepidation. This is mostly because many have previously portrayed these kinds of stories about finding love outside of your culture, religion, socioeconomic status, etc. and they haven’t always come across as being very well-rounded.
But I was happily surprised when I tuned in to watch because Ravi Patel and his sister Geeta have made something special here–they’ve transcended the experience into something second-generation kids (and adults) can and will absolutely relate to, as well as bringing a unique understanding, a raw emotional core, and humor to the issues that are tackled in the film. And because it’s about an Indian family that is actually told from the perspective of an Indian family.
Ravi Patel is 29-years-old at the inception of this film. Having just broken up with his girlfriend Audrey of two years (whom he’s never told his parents about because she’s not a nice Indian girl). Living in Los Angeles with his sister, they both work in the film industry and are gearing up to go on their annual trip to India for a family reunion. Because to the Patels, the fact that both Ravi and Geeta aren’t married is looked upon as some sort of failure in life.
And so Ravi voluntarily allows his parents (and extended family and family friends) to partake in finding him a possible wife through arranged meetings where bio-data–a personal resume about yourself that includes a picture–is sent out hoping to find a match. His only criteria is that she has also been raised in the U.S. And so Ravi has to tread two cultures he loves, possibly disappointing his parents, and come to terms with the fact that love doesn’t have to fit the boundaries we always put around it–especially as he begins to question whether arranged marriage is really for him.
The courage it takes to openly discuss these kinds of topic with your parents, and putting your personal life out there for the whole world to see, is difficult. It’s easy to see how much love and respect Ravi’s family has for each other. The film embraces comedy as a way to tell the story, but it’s surprisingly deep, heartwarming, and effectively entertaining. You’ll be amazed how quickly the film will draw you in, capturing your attention and making you love the Patel family and how unapologetic they are about being who they are. The film is a thoughtful look at both sides of the spectrum: the arranged marriage, old fashioned ideas vs. the modern dating world that Ravi is very much a part of even though he didn’t grow up dating. There’s no hate on one or the other, just different perspectives presented. Well-balanced and intimate without being invasive, Meet the Patels is one of the best documentaries you’ll see this year and without a doubt is a film for everyone, no matter who you are.