Meena (Chandeep Uppal) is the 12 year old daughter of Indian parents (Ayesha Dharker and Sanjeev Bhaskar) who live in the mining village of Tollington, in 1972. Her suburban life surrounded by eccentric relatives and friends is disrupted by the arrival of 14 year old Anita Rutter (Anna Brewster), who is blonde, outrageous and sassy – everything Meena thinks she wants to be. But life is complicated with the arrival of a baby brother, teenage hormones and the pressure of impending entrance exams for the posh grammar school.

Themes of aspirations, friendships and racism have not been well integrated.

In this semi-fictional autobiography of Syal\'s the year is 1972 and 12 year old Meena, Chandeep Uppal, who lives in a village in the West Midlands, dreams of becoming a tall blond writer and escaping her parents, delightfully played by Sanjeev Bhaskar and Ayesha Dharkar. Meena\'s diary is the voice through which we experience her world - we get to know the local shopkeeper Mrs Ormerod, Lynn Redgrave, as well as the village\'s hippy vicar, Mark Williams. But the main focus of Meena\'s attention is her 14 year old blond neighbour Anita, Anna Brewster. She longs to join Anita\'s gang, The Wenches, and gets the chance when she helps Anita escape from Mrs Ormerod after Anita does a bit of shoplifting.

Films about the Indian immigrant experience in Britain have proven enormously popular with audiences as we saw recently with Bend It Like Beckham. But Anita and Me fails to engage with quite the same impact. The performances in the film seem mismatched with Lynn Redgrave positively grating as Mrs. Ormerod, the two newcomers Uppal and Brewster quite uncharismatic and a rather cliched characterisation of the ebullient Auntie Shaila by the author Meera Syal all of which contrast with the very natural performances of the parents. It\'s certainly less of a predictable film than Bend It Like Beckham but its themes of aspirations, friendships and racism have not been well integrated by director Metin Huseyin. Comments By David StrattonMore Bend It Like Beckham, this time set in the 70s. This kind of cross-cultural friendship film is getting to be a bit of a clich?, and needed more robust handling to escape the rut. Performances, apart from Kathy Burke\'s overdone character, are fine.