Starring Jimi Mistry, Kristin Kreuk, and Neve Campbell. Rated PG.

Striving for the feel of a David Lean epic, Partition is the kind of sweeping motion picture that doesn’t get made anymore—remarkable when you consider it is a locally produced indie film. Whether audiences like it or not will have a lot to do with how much nostalgia they hold for those old-style sprawling sagas.

Local director/cowriter/cinematographer Vic Sarin sets the slow-moving melodrama amid vast, screen-filling vistas. It’s the sort of movie where the scenery is a major character, with steam trains chugging across rugged terrain competing for attention with mist-enveloped temple tops. Sarin also uses sensuous close-ups—the mendhi scrolling up a bride’s hands, or the intimate sight of her unwrapping her husband’s red turban on their wedding night. There is an unabashed romanticism to his story of a young Muslim girl and a lonely Sikh farmer whose love is doomed by the fallout of the 1947 Partition of India—when, after Britain hastily rid itself of the jewel in its crown, the country was split along religious lines.

Haunted by his service for the British in a Sikh regiment, Gian (Jimi Mistry) retreats to a simpler farm life in the years after colonialism. But he can’t avoid the bloodbath of Partition, in which Muslims forced to move to Pakistan and Hindus relocated to India become victims of roving mobs. When Gian’s townspeople take revenge on a passing group of Muslim refugees, he saves one of them—young Naseem (Kristin Kreuk)—and shelters her in his home. His fellow Hindu villagers are outraged, but eventually give in as Naseem and Gian fall in love. Still, Naseem is obsessed with finding her long-lost family in Pakistan, and she sets off on a journey there, where even more brutal judgment awaits.

The hatred the pair face from relatives and townsfolk is painted broadly, but at least the two strong leads ground the love story in believable emotion. East Is East’s Mistry has a noble, quiet humility, and Smallville’s Kreuk, though her ethnic background prevents her from completely looking the part, has the shimmering, feisty talent of a young Olivia Hussey.

Less satisfying is a subplot involving Neve Campbell’s Margaret, an upper-crust English holdout who feels more at home in India than she does in Britain. She sticks by Gian, who once helped her soldier brother, and guides him through the crippling bureaucracy that separates his wife from her family. We need to see more of the barely insinuated affections she has for Gian. Her unrequited love for him, and his country, could have provided the dramatic tension the film needs more of to drive it along.

Although the score is disappointingly western-sounding and some of the script clunks, there is still a lot to recommend in Partition. Of note is its balanced depiction of both Muslim and Sikh roles in the historical upheaval and the way it so lovingly evokes India’s way of life, from its dusty rural farming traditions to the colour-drenched Festival of Holi. Vancouver-shot sets meld seamlessly with the South Asian settings. A project that took Sarin more than a decade to get made (he even cast his own son Jaden Rain in the shamelessly adorable role of Gian and Naseem’s child), Partition looks and feels like it comes from the heart—and as old-fashioned as it might sound, that still goes a long way.