SEAN MULLIN’S AMIRA & SAM — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Sean Mullin’s sweet yet cuttingly cynical romantic dramedy Amira and Sam hits all the right notes. I love that this film went with its heart in the final act. Martin Starr kills it here – if you’re a fan of his deadpan comedy stylings from HBO’s Silicon Valley then you owe it to yourself to see him all cleaned up and looking crisp in this funny, touching, sad, and finally hopeful little gem that knows exactly what to do during its 85 minute run time. The story hinges on Sam (Starr), an Iraq war veteran who by chance meets Amira (Dina Shihabi), the beautiful niece of his wartime translator who has relocated to New York. Through a series of potentially life altering circumstances, Sam is asked to hide Amira after a run in with the NYPD, while an unexpected romance blossoms between the two lost souls. Their “meet-cute” is wonderful, the chemistry that Starr has with Shihabi is palpable, playful, and sexy, and I loved how Mullin threw in pointed jabs about the messed up immigration system that continually plagues America. Feeling like a cousin in some respects to Tom McCarthy’s The Visitor, this is a film that operates on a few levels, with comedy masking some rather upsetting notions of estrangement, and while what happens in the final moments might strike some as unlikely, I believed it because of how well defined the central relationship was and because Mullin clearly has an affinity for his characters (he also wrote the original screenplay, which seemingly feels based on some of his life experiences to go off the Wikipedia page). Paul Wesley (perfectly prickish), Laith Nakli (perfectly pensive) and David Rasche (perfectly to the point) all do strong supporting work. This is one of those small, under the radar gems that deserves to find an audience!

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