Once We Were Strangers

Photo Courtesy of the Sundance Film Festival

Usually romantic comedies deal only with the superficial fluff of relationships and avoid at all costs anything but the flimsiest issues, which is why this wonderfully charming story of emigres to the United States is such a delight. In the tradition of the social comedies of Italian directors like Monicelli and Risi from the 1960s, Emanuele Crialese makes a wonderful debut with this inspired combination of romance and acute perception in the colorful neighborhoods of New York City.

Two couples are the focus, the first from India. Apu, a now-naturalized New Yorker still struggling to find the American Dream of success and fulfillment, is meeting his prearranged wife, chosen by their mutual families when they were both children, at the airport. Needless to say, they're from very different worlds. Meanwhile Antonio, a green-cardless Sicilian eeking out an existence in the immigrant underground of the city, is jumping from job to job, getting by on personality and seductiveness, when he falls for an American girl who is a radio talk-show host. Although she's resistant, he pursues her with all his sweetness and charm, but they face hurdles at every turn.

Crialese, himself an Italian emigre, displays a wonderfully observant eye and deft touch for comedy and dialogue. A perfectly cast narrative that turns what looks like archetypical cliches into personable and effective characters, Strangers is a extremely perceptive look at modern America and its historical role as a melting pot. Multileveled and metaphorically rich, this film belies its generic roots and transforms into a wonderful cinematic experience.

- Geoffrey Gilmore

Directed by: Emanuele Crialese
Written by: Emanuele Crialese
Starring: Lynn Cohen, Vincenzo Amato, Anjalee Deshpande, Ajay Naidu, Lázaro Pérez, Jessica Whitney Gould
Produced by: Emanuele Crialese, John P. Scholz

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