Fremont (2023) The Film’s Nonchalant Charm Wins You Over

Donya (Anaita Wali Zada), a young refugee from Afghanistan, who used to work as a translator for the American Armed Forces, now spends her days wandering around Fremont, California. She works at a fortune cookie factory, where she writes fortunes and attends therapy sessions with her unconventional therapist, Dr. Anthony (Gregg Turkington), who is fond of Jack London novels, particularly “White Fang.” Donya battles insomnia and carries guilt for surviving when others in Kabul did not. She longs for love and embarks on a journey to find it.


The movie “Fremont,” directed by Babak Jalali, a British filmmaker of Afghan heritage, and co-written by Carolina Cavalli, premiered at Sundance and was later shown at SXSW. Although the film’s first hour may seem slow, it gains momentum in its final third. Jali’s direction maintains a formal and relaxed tone, offering a unique and carefree charm that viewers can appreciate. At times, the film resembles a Jim Jarmusch production, such as “Paterson,” “Dead Man,” and “Stranger Than Paradise,” The glorious B&W cinematography by Laura Valladao enhances the comparison. Wali Zada, who has no prior acting experience, captivates the audience with her compelling screen presence; even simply gazing into the distance is enough for her to hold our attention.


Around the hour mark, Donya embarks on a journey to Bakersfield, and the movie enters a different realm. This is primarily due to the appearance of “The Bear” breakout star Jeremy Allen White, who portrays Daniel, a mechanic who assists Donya when her car breaks down. There is a beautiful, low-key, but very sexy chemistry between the two actors, and viewers can only hope they will end up together. In the final scene, Donya is framed by abandoned furniture in Daniel’s backyard, and we feel that there is hope for them and their relationship. Yes, there is definitely hope!


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