Director Sara Blecher’s Mayfair has some interesting ideas swirling round, even if the execution is not perfect.
After losing his job as an international aid worker, Zaid returns to his hometown of Mayfair in Johannesburg. His father’s business is in trouble, owing money to some dangerous people. Zaid reluctantly steps in to help…
Directed by Sara Blecher with a screenplay by Neil McCarthy, Mayfair is a gangster film set in a suburb of Johannesburg. The setting is integral to the story; Mayfair is suburb that was populated by Indian immigrants, but is now more of a melting pot. These different groups play a significant part in the film, with the old guard feeling usurped by newcomers.
There is an uneasiness throughout the film, which Blecher controls well. The director makes the most of the setting. The danger of the city is palpable, with the threat of violence never too far away. The use of lighting is notable, particularly in the second half of the film. The artificial, sometimes flickering, light accentuates the griminess of the environment.
After a slow start, when the narrative kicks into gear it is most welcome. A sense of urgency is injected when a family member is put in danger. The narrative that follows is fairly predictable. There is tension present, but the narrative lacks originality. The film apes the central premise of The Godfather with a reluctant son taking over from the ageing father. Zaid’s journey is not particularly gripping, partly because the character is not endearing. The romantic strand is rather limp. It feels superfluous until Ameena herself addresses the fact that she is treated like a sounding board. It seems like their relationship will become more complex afterwards, but this fails to materialise. Ronak Patani delivers an subpar performance as Zaid, whilst Rajesh Gopie appears more authentic.
The subject is ripe for exploration, but ultimately the generic plotting is what lets Mayfair down.
Mayfair is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.