Director: Babak Jalali
Stars: Anaita Wali Zada, Jeremy Allen White, Gregg Turkington, Hilda Schmelling
Set in Fremont, California, Iranian-British director and co-writer Jalali’s picture is a whimsical and slight but ultimately affecting comic study of a lonely young refugee. Donya (real-life Afghan refugee Zada) is a twentysomething recently arrived in the US after working as a translator in Afghanistan. She lives in an apartment building with fellow Afghan refugees, some of whom are suspicious of her because of her former occupation. Donya now works at a fortune cookie factory where she has just been promoted by the kindly manager to a job writing messages for the cookies. Her downtime is mainly spent in her local restaurant watching soaps and chatting to the rueful Turkish owner. Having trouble sleeping, Donya makes an appointment with Doctor Anthony (Turkington) in an attempt to procure some sleeping pills. Initially annoyed by her impertinent queue-jumping, Dr Anthony later warms to the young refugee. There are pleasing echoes of early Jim Jarmusch here, in the black and white photography, languid pacing and deadpan humour. The script written by Jalali with Carolina Cavalli, writer-director of the stylish but unsatisfying teen portrait ‘Amanda’, captures something of the randomness of life while delivering a touching portrait of outsider characters making tentative connections. ‘The Bear’s’ Jeremy Allen White turns up as a shy mechanic, and there’s a lovely cameo from writer-director Boots Riley as a dad pondering fortune cookie messages with his young daughter.
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