My Name Is Khan
Quite simply, this was one of the most beautiful, hopeful films I’ve seen in a very, very long time. Honestly, I’m almost afraid to try to convey what an uplifting story it is, for fear of cheapening it somehow. I have no idea how a film this good could have been largely ignored, and not received any major awards.
It tells the story of Rizvan Khan, a Muslim man from Mumbai who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism that allows him to be high functioning, but incapable of normal socialization. As an adult, he follows his brother to America, where he eventually marries a Hindu woman. After the events of 9/11, their lives become complicated by nascent racial prejudice directed toward anyone who even LOOKS middle eastern. A tragedy eventually sends Rizvan on a sort of Quixotic quest that reveals a great deal about the nature and shape of hatred and racism in America, and the rest of the world.
We seem to live in an era that is dominated by stories of greed, corruption, violence, and hatred. These things are so common that we accept them as components of our society and culture, at times without question. Our entertainment has come to reflect this cynicism, making pessimism feel hip. Yet this film dares to present a simple tale of hope that doesn’t depend on false sentiment to get its message across. It dares to suggest that small acts by insignificant people can change the heart of a nation, even a world. Cutting through all the complications of style and form, the film speaks to viewers at the very essence of their humanity.
While there may be those who criticize “My Name Is Khan” for being hopeful to a fault, for veering too far into the realm of optimistic fantasy, I’m not one of them. The core of this story is not measured in degrees of realism; it is in the way it conveys a sense that human beings, despite their faults, their prejudices, and their indifference, can find ways to connect with the people around them even when circumstances are at their worst. Perhaps the strength of the film lies in the way it suggests that such optimism may not be common, but this does not mean is non-existent.