Written and directed by Shan Khan, Honour (2014) is Khan’s debut feature film and revolves around the act of an honour killing after a Pakistani matriarch learns that her daughter, Mona, plans to run away with her Punjabi boyfriend. Led by strong performances from Aiysha Hart as Mona and Paddy Considine’s nameless bounty hunter, they're supported by Harvey Virdi's dark portrayal as Mona’s mother and Faraz Ayub as Mona’s vicious brother Kasim. The film begins with a horrific act in the name of honour but resolves in a thriller that doesn’t quite feel as brave as its brutal and shocking opening.

Digital illustration of Honour, Aiysha Hart’s Mona.
Honour, digital illustration by Hamish Mèk Chohan.

What Honour seeks to be is a slick noirish thriller which takes us through the overcast, rain-soaked streets of Central London and Southall via Mona’s story, which it achieves well. Considine’s antihero unpicks Mona’s story after being tasked with finding her. Ex-National Front, Considine now earns his money finding South Asian runaways destined to make “amends'' for bringing their family’s names into ill repute. On making Honour, Khan stated at the 2014 Belfast Film Festival, “It was a desire to give British Asians a film that I felt was kind of cool in a way that I didn’t think we [British South Asians] had that kind of a movie ... I also liked the films of the 70s, thrillers like The French Connection [1971], Marathon Man [1976] and All The President's Men [1976], that kind of were thrillers but they had a point."

Whilst I enjoyed Honour, Khan could have told the story without the dramatic tropes; the conflicted ex-National Front member, the duality of hidden fundamentalism or the religious extremist justification and delivered a much rawer response to addressing the issues of honour killings. One which would have resonated more with the end statistic included.

The United Nations estimates that 5,000 girls are killed worldwide every year by members of their own families, in the name of honour.

But then Khan wasn’t focussing on the issue of honour killings, it was just the “point” being made, or used. A conduit through which to discuss themes of betrayal, family, honour, love, religion and revenge.

Khan has written and directed an unflinching film which Aiysha Hart deserved to have been championed as lead of, over Considine. This is not a dig at anyone’s performance - everyone completely nails their roles - but this is Mona’s story and yet the film is still pitched as a Considine thriller.

Honour film poster.
Honour film poster.

Topics such as honour killings are incredibly important to raise and platform, and whilst Honour certainly prompted a conversation after viewing, fundamentally it’s a hard boiled pulp fiction. If one were to compare it to the Vinay Patel written and Bruce Goodison directed, Murdered By My Father (2016), here is a film where the tragic realities of such a pitiless act feel truly “real”. Where seriousness is placed on the act rather than the drama around it, told outside of genre.

Based on the Home Office's "Statistics on so called 'honour-based' abuse offences recorded by the police", reported in 2020. In 2019-2020, there were 2,024 related offences recorded by the police in England and Wales, where “honour-based” was listed against the offence.

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