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Mogul Mowgli

****
2020

‘…a dark and difficult film to be sure, but a rewarding one…’

One of my least favourite genres is the one that confuses suffering and entertainment; sentimental films about people battling fatal diseases, washed over with sentiment, and exploiting genuine tragedy to create fake gravitas. I call them ‘hurry up and die’ movies, because that’s usually what I’m thinking when I watch them. My fear when I sat down to Mogul Mowgli was that it sounded like another rotten apple from that diseased barrel; how enthusiastic are you for the story of a young man who discovers that he’s got a hereditary, degenerative disease that sees his immune system turn on itself?

That Mogul Mowgli is as good as it is largely due to a heroic performance by Riz Ahmed, a household name by dint of his work on the Star Wars movie Rogue One. He’s convincing in the musical stretches as the gifted Zed a British/Pakistani rapper who is about to embark on a lucrative support tour when he gets his diagnosis, but also offers up a soulful feel for his character that means that his plight is genuinely affecting. So many films skip the hard details of medical treatment, but anyone who spends time in NHS hospitals will recognise the steely, professional medical staff, the bland rooms, hard chairs and lonely corridors.

This is a dark and difficult film to be sure, but a rewarding one; there’s an agonising and yet blazingly powerful scene late on in which Zed calls up his ex girlfriend to see if she’d want access to the sperm he’s planning to freeze before his forthcoming stem-cell replacement therapy destroys his fertility. Such scenes persuade, but also require trigger warnings due to their unerring bleakness. With much of the world staring down the barrel of Covid-19 right now, such scenes may be hard to handle for audiences, but speak honestly and sincerely about the universal sanctity of human life.

Bassam Tariq’s film is no crowd-pleaser, but a deep dive into illness and pain. Without sentimentality, there’s nothing to hang onto but Zed’s faint hope of survival, and yet, vague spoiler alert, a surprisingly upbeat conclusion makes the journey worthwhile. Ahmed really shows himself as a top-class actor here, and seems intent on breaking a few stereotypes about the portrayal of Muslim characters in cinema, which can only be a good thing. I’m not sure about the viability of awards ceremonies during a pandemic that has stopped all but streaming services get their movies out to the public, but Ahmed surely puts himself in the frame with his heartfelt performance here.

Thanks to the BFI for early access to this title.

Mogul Mowgli is screening in UK cinemas from October 30th 2020.

 

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  1. Another great review! I almost saw this at the Denver Film Fest, but decided to skip. I did see Sound of Metal, and Ahmed is amazing in that too. Definitely going to check this out soon.

    • Thanks, I was not enthused by the notion of this film, but it really does have a powerhouse central performance that’s worth seeing. Will look out for Sound of Metal, thanks for the tip!

  2. I read this post but didn’t comment, as I couldn’t think of anything to say. Then went to work, had a miserable day in the rain and came home and took a nice hot shower. During that time I thought of a fantastic comment that was on point, was serious and didn’t mock the movie, the post OR you. Then I ate a bag of kettle popcorn (it was sweet, which is weird, because I’ve never had sweet microwave popcorn before) and completely forgot the comment. Sigh.

    Will you ever do a review of various popcorns that I’m sure you consume while watching these movies? Or are you a fastidious movie watcher, with slip cases on your furniture, gloves on your hands and a full biohazard suit, just in case? I for one would be interested in your eating habits while watching and reviewing movies.

    • I follow the Mark Wahlberg diet and approach to everyday life. I get up at 1.15am in the morning, eat five chicken burgers, play a round of golf and go back to bed. Then I get up, eat five chicken burgers and go to the gym until 7am. Then I blog, eat four chicken burgers and go back to bed. Then I have 15 minutes family time and then a round of golf until 9am. Then it’s business time for ten minutes, then I eat ten chicken burgers and go back to bed. Then I read other blogs, eat three chicken burgers and have 3 minutes of family time, go to the gym, play nine holes of golf and go back to bed. It’s simple enough once you get into the swing of it.

      • Dang, I notice you give your family 18 minutes. They better appreciate just what you’re giving them. That’s a lot of time.

        Now, with the chicken burgers, is that with or without buns? Because if it’s with buns, well, that’s a lot of carbs and those will go straight to your buns.

        • It’s about the same as Marky Mark gives his! I can always play and extra round of golf if the conversation runs out…I only eat the buns, throw the actual burger away, tgg Gff en burn off the energy with more gym and golf, then 4 minutes family time and bedtime at 5.45pm.

          How’s your regime compare?

  3. “I call them ‘hurry up and die’ movies”….sorry that was just too funny!😂😂 I agree though, am not a really big fan of films like that either, although at times there can be some exceptions. Mr. Ahmed is definitely a very good actor, and although I do not dispute the fact that this is without a doubt another stellar performance, I’m giving this one a pass for now. Too much going on right now to take a dive into misery, but doesn’t mean I won’t ever watch this. Great post as always!😀

    • Fair response: I guess that’s why I’d put in the note about awards, not because I think they they themselves are so important, but because such recognition is one way to get people to watch films like this. Yes, it’s not great timing in a pandemic, but catharsis is healthy, and hopefully audiences will find the right mood to view a film like this..

  4. I do like Mr.Ahmed, he’s such a good actor, first saw him in Nightcrawler, and Four Lions, but never watch Star Wars so missed him in that. Loved him in Venom, and he and Tom Hardy did some seriously funny interviews together promoting that movie. That saying, because he’s so good I think this would be too hard a watch at the minute for me at least, need to keep taking the happy pills!

    • That’s a very accurate comment. I’m not sure I’d have chosen this film to watch right now, I had to see it for review purposes, and I completely understand that the subject matter may be tough for everyone right now. But I don’t regret watching any drama this good, and feel better for seeing it. Save it for when you can take it!

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