Sam (Martin Starr) is a soldier recently discharged from the military and struggling to succeed as a comedian. While returning a memento to Bassam (Laith Nakli), an Iraqi translator that accompanied his unit, he meets Bassam’s niece, Amira (Dina Shihabi). Turned bitter by her own tragedies caused by the war, Amira wants nothing to do with Sam and feels that he is guilty by association. After fleeing a confrontation with a cop that threatens to deport Amira, she is forced to stay with Sam until she can move to Michigan. While spending those next days together, a romance begins to grow between the two.
While Amira and Sam certainly follows the well-trodden path of your traditional romantic comedy, it stands out from the crowd due to the strong performances by its leading couple. Starr’s bone-dry humor and mumbled quips are the perfect match to Shihabi’s open jabs and passionate emotion. While the film does tackle further issues like re-integration of veterans, immigration, and Wall Street corruption, none of these facets feel completely fleshed out. I don’t feel that it loses anything by including these side-stories, but I don’t think that it gains anything by having them, either. Despite some mild cheesiness, Amira and Sam delivers a surprisingly believable story of love.
Amira and Sam is the feature length debut for writer/director Sean Mullin. Taking on the topic of a romance between an Army veteran and an Iraqi immigrant in post 9/11 America, Mullin uses humor and romance to make observations about our society. Usually, politics crammed into comedic films induces chronic sighing in me, but Amira and Sam avoids being tiresome with its political messages by being so damn likeable. With a unique story and a healthy dose of charm, you can’t help but smile and laugh along with Starr and Shihabi.
I can honestly say that I would never have expected Martin Starr to be leading up a romantic comedy, but I’m thrilled that he did. Amira and Sam showed me a range that I had never seen from Starr and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing him taking advantage of more diverse role opportunities. Dina Shihabi seemed to effortlessly shine in her first leading role, showing the growth that her character experiences throughout the film. Sadly, many of the minor characters seem to suffer from “Daytime TV Syndrome”. Cheesy smiles and overacting is pretty abundant among the supporting roles, which can make the movie feel like something you would see on the Hallmark channel.
Amira and Sam may not stray far from the tropes of the genre, but it can easily win you over with its charm. Though some suspension of disbelief is occasionally required, the romance and chemistry between the two leads is solid and is undeniably warm and fuzzy. With a snarky, quick-witted script and plenty of plot outside of the romance, Amira and Sam is a great fit for couples, as well as those who may not be too keen on romantic comedies.
Amira and Sam
If you’re interested in seeing if I’m wrong or right, Amira and Sam is now showing in select theatres and available on Video on Demand. Click HERE to find a list of ways to see the film for yourself!