Sam (Martin Starr: Veronica Mars) is an army veteran just back from the wars who is uncomfortable with the role he finds himself cast to play in civilian society. Amira (Dina Shihabi) is an Iraqi immigrant to New York who has good reason to be suspicious of American soldiers, and who also pushes back against the constraints her Arabic community places on her as a woman. But what starts out as a favor to his old army buddy (Laith Nakli), a former military translator and Amira’s uncle, quickly develops into a warm friendship and the beginnings of a romance between the unlikely couple. This is far from the typical culture-clash romantic dramedy, and far from the standard “soldier has trouble returning home” story. The feature debut of writer-director (and military veteran) Sean Mullin, Amira & Sam is a delightfully engaging, convention-busting slice of of-the-moment America that refuses to put any of its easy-to-stereotype characters — also including Paul Wesley (Before I Disappear) as Charlie, Sam’s hedge-fund manager cousin, and David Rasche (Men in Black III) as a Vietnam vet and one of Charlie’s clients — into boxes and instead gives them room to breathe as real people. Starr and Shihabi are wonderfully effortless here, and a pleasure to spend time with. And Mullin goes about offering some very cogent commentary on post-9/11 U.S. society in ways that are laid back but never less than incisive (and not anything we’ve seen explored on film before on quite this personal a level). I feel like I’ve just seen the first movie of the post-post-9/11 era, the one ready to leave the insanity of the past decade and a half behind.
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