I’ll Meet You There is the type of film where characters say things like “we can’t move forward until we face the past.” It is not that this sentiment is untrue, but rather that writer/director Iram Parveen Bilal is working with such interesting ideas that rigid following of soapy cliches and blandness feel frustrating. The film follows a multigenerational family comprised of Dua, a young Pakistani-American woman who finds her love of dance clashing with her faith, her father Majeeb, a Chicago police officer assigned to investigate his local mosque, and Baba who returns after years away from their family.
The family dynamic is inherently interesting and complex with weighty ideas surrounding religion, identity, culture, faith, freedom, and the ways in which they diverge and intersect. One has to wonder if perhaps there is too much going on with multiple subplots that are all quite interesting, but create a lack of focus that never gives us enough time to properly consider the ideas set forth. There is a sense of authenticity and emotional truth that keeps the film engaging with a beating heart. Unfortunately, it is not quite as compelling as it could and should have been.
Luckily, the film is anchored by a truly sublime performance from Faran Tahir, who gives the character of Majeed his all. He manages to lift the material beyond its melodramatic stylings. Though perhaps having the least interesting arc in the film, Tahir ends up elevating his character to the best in the film. Thus turning something like a cliched confession scene into an emotional grand slam – simply because he plays it with sincere conviction and sensitivity. Unfortunately, that cannot be said for the rest of the cast. The earnestness of the film oftentimes feels saccharine.
Beyond the soap-opera plotting, the film must also contend with a direction that simply does not breathe enough life into the story. The cinematography is often quite flat, with static camerawork that only really gets interesting during dance sequences that are hampered by peculiar editing and choppy slow-motion that modern films have otherwise long moved past. It makes scenes that are meant to be beautiful and elegant instead look odd and distracting. It is hard to talk so negatively about a film that is so clearly steeped in ideas that the filmmaker cares about. Nevertheless, these things are important and they simply do not work here like I so badly wanted them to.
That being said, looking back at the film now, even with all of its inconsistencies, I am glad to have seen it and understand writer/director Iram Parveen Bilal’s intent. As the film states, sometimes it is our intentions that matter, so long as those intentions are guided in good faith. I’ll Meet You There is not perfect, but it is filled with a sense of love and good faith that made it a worthwhile experience for this writer.