Clara and Ishmael are gorgeous, happy, in love and in Paris. How nice is that? Like many cosmopolitan Parisian couples, the fact that she is Jewish and he is Muslim barely crosses the minds of these oh-so-secular lovebirds…until Clara announces that she’s pregnant. That’s when the troubles start in this charming and timely romantic comedy whose title could have been “Guess Who’s Coming to Shabbos Dinner?”
Though the premise is as old as Romeo and Juliet and as familiar as Meet the Parents, the Arab-Jewish frisson makes this film feel absolutely fresh. We’re rooting for the couple—he (Roschdy Zem) a jazz music teacher, she (Cécile de France) a physical therapist—as they first must navigate the fear and disappointments of loved ones: Clara’s parents, though not exactly observant, receive the news as a religious tragedy, while Ishmael’s friends register it as a political earthquake. Suddenly baby names, circumcision and keeping Ramadan become flashpoints. Will Middle East politics break the couple apart? Can love really conquer all?
Actor Zem (Live and Become, SFJFF 2006) makes a fine directorial debut working with a snappy, sexy script. When Mama Breitmann demands to know if the baby will be Jewish or Muslim, Clara retorts, “He’ll be French!”