Cross-cultural fable from the West of Ireland

Nikesh Patel in Halal Daddy. 

Derek Davis once said that being Irish today meant “driving a German car to an American-themed pub for a Belgian beer and then grabbing an Indian curry on the way home before sitting on Swedish furniture to watch British programmes on Japanese TVs”.

This is a well-intentioned comedy that does its best to unite different cultures as well. However, as often happens in these feelgood films full of slaphappy souls, such cultures often become reduced to one-dimensional stereotypes in the process.

The Irish, we see, like alcohol, feisty women and indolence. But they have Big Hearts. If strict Muslims could loosen up and learn to embrace these ‘values,’ maybe the East-West divide could be truly eradicated. 

Within these broad parameters Conor MacDermottroe, directing, features British Muslim Raghdan (Nikesh Patel) as a young man who’s run away from his dad Amir (Art Malik), a Bradford executive who’s been trying to organise a marriage of convenience for him. He gets succour in the Sligo home of Amir’s brother Jamal (Paul Tylak) and his easygoing wife Doreen (Deirdre O’Kane).

He starts dating Maeve (Sarah Bolger). Maeve delivers pizzas and swears a lot. (This is another stereotype of the Irish that Mr MacDermottroe highlights: our devotion to expletives.)

Colm Meaney is Maeve’s father Martin. He’s just lost his job and is none too happy about it. Martin seems permanently perplexed by life. You’re reminded of Miley from RTÉ’s late-lamented Glenroe. All he’s short of saying is “Well holy God!” as yet another conundrum assails him. 

The storyline proper begins when Amir arrives from Bradford on Raghdan’s 21st birthday and gives him a present of an abandoned abattoir. Cue lots of gags about the different ways to slaughter an animal depending on what corner of the globe it hails from.

Interviews are conducted for jobs in the abattoir. Eccentric members of Sligo’s dole queue present themselves at them. The director’s sister Maria (a Glenroe veteran) chews the carpet. Some of the others look like they should be sectioned.

Martin starts working in the abattoir with Raghdan but gets elbowed out of the top job by Amir. He becomes  angry about this and so does Maeve. Things start to look bad for Raghdan’s relationship with her – not to mention that with Amir. The abattoir’s future doesn’t look too bright either.

Doreen and Jamal now give Raghdan money to tour the world. Isn’t it just the time for a nice global holiday when your life has reached crisis point in Sligo? Martin, meanwhile, tries to prettify the abattoir but runs into money problems. 

If you like films about ‘rock ‘n’ roll Muslims’ (Raghdan) and Irishmen who don’t know the difference between Arabia and India (Martin) then this is for you. It’s a mostly pleasant adolescent attempt to cure (or at least hibernicise?) Islamophobia. It’s at its funniest when it doesn’t lapse into irreverence and/or farce.