Starring Noah Schnapp as Abe, Seu Jorge as Chico, Dagmara Dominczyk as Rebecca, Arian Moayed as Amir
Directed by Fernando Grostein Andrade
Rating: ** (2 stars)
A pure heart cannot hide the bedrock of hollowness that stares back at us as we look at one more film that connects food with religion and community.
Abe, played by a sparkling young actor named Noah Schnapp, is the only child of Jewish-Muslim parents. Abe thinks food can unite his fractured family. He is probably right. But the strenuously dramatic script wants to prove otherwise. There are elaborate dining table episodes where everyone Muslim sneers at all the Jews on the table with badly written anything but kosher dialogues, while Abe’s Jewish mother(Dagmara Dominczyk, has potential but gets little space)) and Muslim father(Arian Moayed) try to keep their son’s upbringing out of the cultural and religious domain.
This is easier said than done. The film has a tough time holding up to its own ambitions. While the first-half where Abe runs off to learn cooking from a roadside chef Chico (Seu Jorge) who specializes in fusion food is mildly engaging the second-half with its manufactured crisis is embarrassingly pedestrian.
Abe’s education looks like Karate Kid converted into the culinary kingdom: the eager determined student, the sullen guru… The hostility and then the kinship. Not much of Abe’s struggle to reconcile his personal inclinations regarding food and cooking with the streetsmart menu comes across in the hasty narration.
Still, there is a certain charm in the culinary education of the young hero. The second -half where Abe cooks up a cultural confluence of a meal for the two warring sides of his family have a labored and predictable hangover with everyone sobbing repentance just before The End. It’s like ordering the most basic food on the menu just before closing time so that you can beat a hasty retreat before the doors shut on you.
Abe is not the film that you would hope to see when food and family are fused into a fulsome rom-com. It has its moments of pleasurable introspection. But overall, the mood is languid to the point of making the proceedings seeming lazily written and uninspired.