A monochrome character study of an Afghan woman trying to adjust to a new life in America, Fremont boasts a superb central performance from Anaita Wali Zada. She plays Donya, a former translator for the US army forced to flee her homeland following the Taliban’s re-gaining of power; resettled in the Californian town of Fremont, she works at a Fortune Cookie factory, packing those tiny treats with homilies for local restaurants.
The transition to this life has not been easy: Donya cannot sleep, has few friends and lives a lonely existence. Zada’s face conveys pain, wry amusement and engrained melancholy – she is hypnotic to watch, whether enduring her employer’s talk on the benefits of head massagers, listening to her fellow worker’s heartfelt karaoke singing, her purloined therapist’s readings of White Fang or simply looking into camera and making an emotional decision to act.
Though Donya is haunted by what has happened to her in Afghanistan, Fremont does not hinge on that. Other people tell Donya what she might be feeling, but she is moving towards her own destiny. The movie is beautifully shot and composed, with a real warmth and streak of comedy amidst the sadness and yearning: director and co-writer Babak Jalali, together with Carolina Cavalli, observe.
All dialogue is rich with metaphor, performances are raw – with Greg Turkington’s awkward psychiatrist a treat – and a soulful cameo from The Bear’s Jeremy Allen White makes an impact in the film’s final act. Soulful and absorbing, Fremont is about searching for a new beginning, and Zada and the cast of nuanced characters around her are wonderful company.
Dir: Babak Jalali (12A, 92 mins)
Fremont is released on Fri 15 Sept
words KEIRON SELF