Set in Northern England, across the racial divide, Love + Hate is a contemporary love story between a white guy and a Pakistani girl. Far from being just another Romeo + Juliet knock-off, though, Dominic Savage’s film deals with the reality of cultural intolerance and double standards spawning from peer influence; and how they can hinder interracial relationships between young people living in our society today.
Adam (Tom Hudson) is the central male of the story, who works in a wallpaper shop, goes out drinking on the weekends, and is encouraged by his friends and family to despise the “Pakis” that are supposedly taking over his neighbourhood. On the contrary, Naseema (Samina Awan) is a pretty 17-year-old Muslim girl, carefully protected by her cab-driver father (Mohamed Rafique) and her older brother, Yousif (Wasim Zakir) — the latter of whom is having in a secret relationship with a young white girl named Michelle (Nichola Burley).
Adam crosses paths with Naseema when she is offered a job in the same shop as him, which immediately makes him feel a rather uneasy. Making an issue out of race, Adam refuses to speak to Naseema at first, and soon makes an informal complaint to his manager, only to have it ignored. This later leads to an attack an Asian-owned business by Adam and his bigot friends, as well as various xenophobic lecturings from Adam’s brother about the (apparent) threats that other communities pose.
Despite all this, slowly and subconsciously, Adam starts to develop feelings for Naseema the more the two of them work together; and this also makes him question for the first time the racist people/culture he has grown up in. Adam is not a particularly sympathetic character, but his developing bond with Naseema is incredibly heart-warming — most notably for how it manages to challenge ignorance and the cultural barriers of the people on screen. The message, if simple, is a powerful one: Love really can conquer all.
Despite a couple of contrived moments — a scene where Adam’s friend, Shane (Michael McNulty), is literally thrown out of the pub for saying he’d willingly sleep with an Asian girl, is a little OTT — there’s a real sense of people needing to have their own cultural beliefs and happily coexist with others who are different. The film promotes interracial and multiethnic identity with a desire to see the new generations liberated, but also highlights the hypocrisy of some older people who seemingly oppose interracial mixing and then indulge in a relationship out of the public eye themselves.
Low-budget and consisting mainly of first-time non-actors improvising their dialogue, Love + Hate has a deliberately gritty feel to it that may prove unsettling to some, but nevertheless is always mesmerising. Hudson and Awan are promising talents and have good chemistry together, while the supporting cast — particularly Zakir and Dean Andrews as the racist father to Michelle — are so despicably convincing that you can really feel the tension surrounding the two lovers.
I must admit, it’s rare that I am moved by so-called “love” stories, due to my own cynicism and entertainment’s tendency to melodramatise the subject; Adam and Naseema’s struggle, though, felt real, like it had a purpose. Director/screenwriter Savage avoids romanticizing his film for the sake of pleasing the relationship-movie enthusiast; rather, his aim is to show us that faith, reality, love and hate all coincide, and the journey to find peace is far from easy.