Published Oct 15, 2015Finding love can be confusing and difficult on its own, but when it's documented on camera and frequently meddled with by your feisty parents, it can get even more overwhelming.
This is the case for Ravi Patel, a professional actor who stars in his own documentary titled Meet the Patels, which he co-directs with his filmmaking sister, Geeta. Frustrated by the pressures of his family to marry an Indian woman, Ravi takes his chances and spends most of the film in pursuit of this goal.
Documented in a series of home videos, the film starts off with a family trip to India. Depressed from a recent break-up with his long-term girlfriend Audrey (a relationship he did not tell his parents about), Ravi spends most of the vacation listening to his family prod him about finding a wife. His parents, after all, were set up by an arranged marriage, and see no faults in the tradition. But having grown up in America, Ravi would much rather get to know a woman for more than just a few minutes before marrying them.
But after spending some time reflecting on his parents' loving and happy relationship, Ravi eventually but reluctantly gives in to their plans to connect him with an Indian-American woman. After all, if his mom and dad so happily in love, why couldn't it work for him?
Thus begins a series of pre-arranged dates set up by recommendations from family and friends. Ravi spends his year traveling across the U.S., meeting women. At one point, he even goes to a marriage convention, filled with fellow Indians who want to find partners. But despite several awkward first dates and the hilarious bickering Ravi endures with his exasperated parents, it also becomes clear throughout the film that he still has feelings for his ex.
Clocking in at 88 minutes, Meet the Patels gets a little wearisome towards the middle, as Ravi seems to go on an endless stream of dates. But although the film tends to drag a little, there's much in this documentary that's worth staying for. Ravi's dramatic background makes him an excellent and funny guide for those unfamiliar to the world of Indian dating, and honestly, it's also hard not to fall in love with parents Champa and Vasant as they banter adorably and hilariously on life and relationships.
But while having good characters are key to making a good documentary, the efforts of Geeta, who captures every scene behind the camera, cannot go unmentioned. As much as this story is about Ravi's quest for love, it's also very much a film about family.
Offering audiences a fly-on-the-wall approach into the lives of the Patels, Geeta's cinematic approach ultimately makes Meet the Patels even stronger. As she has the privilege of access to her family, she manages to capture in fine detail the intimate moments of happiness, frustration and sadness experienced by her relatives.