There are defining moments in British cinema and this could well be one of them.

City of Tiny Lights is an unusual movie. Some mind find it a little slow and others may well find it a little confusing altogether.

Riz Ahmed plays Tommy Akhtar a private detective who is haunted by memories of his childhood. A childhood which ended tragically with the death of one of his best friends.

He finds himself embroiled in a murder investigation, questioned by the American secret service (well, that’s who we think they are) and coming face to face with his childhood friend Shelly (Billie Piper).

Roshan Seth plays Tommy’s father, an avid cricket fan who is himself is coming to terms with a life-threatening illness.


The story and setting was reminiscent of an old gritty American style detective movie it does move along at a slow pace and it can take a while before we are taken in by Tommy’s character.

There are some great moments most of them between Tommy and his father Farzad. And also between Tommy and Osman (Rizwan Shebani). There is a good supporting cast too in the form of Cush Jumbo who plays Melody.

The plot is interwoven with constant flashbacks to Tommy, Shelley and Lovely’s (James Floyd) childhood. 

The characters are all battling their own demons and looking to bury memories of their past.

Central to the plot however is how vast amounts of money are being transferred to a supposed radical Islamic group. 

And barring this suggestion the movie shies away from typical stereotypes of British-Asians and Muslims in particular.

And so to the reason why this movie may well be defining. For many years we have been faced with familiar storylines and characters played by a lead Asian actors.

Here, Tommy is far from any of those. So, it was finally refreshing to see a movie with a lead Asian actor and storyline which does not look to keep to the tried and tested formulas when it comes to ‘Asian’ characters and themes in British movies.

By doing so they may well be closer to the urban British Asian scene than you might think.

City of Tiny Lights is in Cinemas this Friday.