The Infidel (2010)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BB.5

United Kingdom, 2010.  Slingshot Productions, Ombadsman, The Salt Company International, Met Film, Met Film Production.  Screenplay by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by David Baddiel, , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Mahmud Nasir () can consider himself, at best, a moderate Muslim: he means to pray five times a day but never quite gets there, and the odd touch of ale does pass his lips from time to time. He is thrilled when his son announces that he is marrying the girl of his dreams, but he is rather dismayed when he discovers that the girl’s mother is also getting remarried, to a super-conservative, anti-western speaker who is coming to meet Mahmud and his family and find out if they are devout enough for his future stepdaughter. The complication is that at the same time, Mahmud has just discovered, while going through his late mother’s effects, that he was adopted by his parents at birth, and that his birth name was…Solly Shimshillowitz. He discovers the location of his possible birth father, a dying old man in a nursing home, but is told he is not allowed to see him unless he comes back a little more Jewish. Now he is having to learn to be devout in two different faiths, with the help of a recently divorced Jewish cab driver () who helps Mahmud slip through a bar mitzvah unnoticed and then watches as the man has to navigate a religious La Cage Aux Folles in order to make everyone happy. This perceptive comedy features a lot of brilliant jabs at the categories and prejudices that all humans subscribe to in order to feel secure, but the film itself is full of land mines as well; when it comes time to really criticize the way people resist expanding their horizons, David Baddiel’s script goes for the jugular and brings up revelations that are terrifying and hilarious at the same time. The slack pace and dry air between jokes might not work for all audiences, it’s a very subtle experience, but the real drawback is the hammy ending.  Whatever good has been set up attempts to escape all the difficult issues raised by using a silly plot device involving an eighties pop star that cheapens the entire project. A shame, since Djalili is terrific in the lead and is lovely as his wife.


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