As a starring vehicle for young actor Noah Schnapp (of Stranger Things fame), Fernando Grostein Andrade’s film Abe works surprisingly well. Thanks to some great performances and a heartfelt script, this manages to be the uplifting and compassionate movie that we all need in this time of separation.
The film follows a young boy with a passion for cooking as he struggles to balance his identity with his mixed Israeli-Palestinian heritage. Although the identity crisis arc is nothing new for a coming-of-age movie, the way in which the movie ties the culture clash in with the culinary elements of the film works extremely well.
Of course, there isn’t a whole lot of subtlety in the movie’s message — everyone should love one another — but in a time in which contempt and division is increasingly brewing within society, this seems more important to hear than ever. It isn’t often that films are successfully so hopeful without feeling maudlin, and as a result, the movie is a breezy watch.
The protagonist, like the cuisine he so enjoys cooking, is a fusion of cultures. It is this element of the story that makes it very compelling. Yet despite the giant elephant in the room (the Israeli-Palestine conflict), the film doesn’t seem too concerned with politics. Instead, it hopes to offer a message of how we can treat each other with love and respect.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about the movie is that it has five credited writers (two screenwriters with three additional story by credits), and yet it feels entirely cohesive. Yes, the film is a bit predictable and conventional, but there’s a clear direction and narrative momentum that allows the movie to be consistently entertaining.
Schnapp does a very good job in his lead role, bringing a lot of humanity to the character. While his more emotionally-demanding scenes in the film aren’t totally convincing, his chemistry with the actors who play his parents, Dagmara Dominczyk and Arian Moayed, is able to recover the movie. Seu Jorge also gives a solid supporting turn.
The film is also quite strong on a technical level. Given the fact that the movie is very heavily based in food, it makes sense that there would be some absolutely gorgeous sequences featuring cooking. The cinematography by Blasco Giurato does a wonderful job of making the film look appetizing.
Abe is a movie that sounds like it should be a mess on paper, but in fact, it’s very charming and entertaining. It’s cheery and family-friendly entertainment that is so desperately needed while people are stuck at home from work and school.
Abe hits VOD on April 17.