Review: Amira & Sam

Amira & Sam
6 10

PLOT: An Army Veteran struggles to find his way as a civilian again, which is further complicated when he becomes involved with an Iraqi immigrant who is faced with the possibility of deportation.

REVIEW: With all the controversy over AMERICAN SNIPER, there’s a lighter display of the returning Veteran story saddled in the indie romcom AMIRA & SAM, which isn’t anywhere near as intense or provoking, but still an effective, if not somewhat generic tale. Starring Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks, HBO’s Silicon Valley) and newcomer Dina Shihabi, the film operates under the standard conventions of the genre, but shines some light on the plight of Veterans adapting in the post-war world and immigrants looking for a fresh start, creating a fairly standard romance story for a couple of non-standard characters.

Starr’s Sam is a former Special Forces Soldier who, unlike the usual stereotype, isn’t traumatized by PTSD or any lasting effects of the war, but is instead seeking to move on with his life after getting out, working as a security guard, while attempting to be a stand-up comedian. When he meets up with Bassam (Laith Nakli), an interpreter he worked with overseas, Sam meets Amira, a feisty, beautiful, and quirky Iraqi who spends her days selling pirated DVD’s on the street and dodging authorities for being there illegally. Shihabi embodies Amira with plenty of spirit and sassiness that makes it perfectly understandable why Sam would be attracted to her, even if she outright rejects his presence at first.

After losing his job as a security guard, Sam meets up with his cousin, Charlie (The Vampire Diaries’ Paul Wesley), a shady hedge fund investor who brings him into the investment world under the pretense of using his military service to lure older vets into the fund.  It’s a shameless affair, but Sam agrees to do it, meeting with a Vietnam Vet and sharing some war stories, which seems to be enough to bring him on board. Sam is a man of principle and you can see his visible internal struggle, which Starr convincingly portrays. Sam is not temperamental or irrational; he simply wants to do the right thing and the suspicion of being duped by Charlie sets in early.

Shrugging off attempts at humor or inappropriate commentary about his wartime service is commonplace for Sam (and most Vets, at that) and he masks that with his oftentimes crude humor, which, like his on-stage attempts in the film, are hit or miss. That sums up a lot of the humor and dialogue in AMIRA & SAM. In some instances it’s truly genuine and in others it’s forced or awkward. Thankfully, Starr is terrific at finding that balance when it starts to falter and makes for a surprisingly great lead. His aloof-yet-stern presence feels real; you want to root for this guy.

The other half of the story doesn’t fare quite as well. Shihabi is cute and funny, particularly when she’s butchering English profanity (which she does often), and she holds her own with Starr, but her character is severely lacking in background and depth. We learn very little about her or what makes her tick, which is unfortunate, as it would’ve given the film the extra layer (or two) that it needs. After an engagement party turns sour, both Sam and Amira realize that they are both outcasts in a sense, which seals their bond and causes them to finally connect on another level. The aftereffects of the party, however, bring the police to the doorstep and force Amira to face deportation. This presents Sam with a choice as well and it’s not a surprising one given the genre.

AMIRA & SAM is a simple, sweet film that feels like an appetizer to a much bigger one. A little more elbow grease on the script and a little more time spent on the characters were sorely needed. It seems content to aim for a more easy-going tale, while still teetering on the edges of real-world Veteran and immigration issues, but it never really dives into them fully, leaving a lot more left to be said. Granted, this is meant to be a love story, but the fact that they don’t fully realize the issues they bring up makes it a somewhat half-hearted effort. All that said, this is a harmless romance tale at its center and both Starr and Shihabi are a fun couple to watch blossom onscreen. Devoid of outrageously silly antics, yet fulfilling the romcom recipe, this is ultimately an easy to take date movie that almost wants to say something more, but not quite.

Source: JoBlo.com



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