Rola Nashef’s “Detroit Unleaded” is a romantic comedy film starring a gas station worker, Sami, as he experiences the harsh day-to-day living and working standards of Detroit through a bulletproof glass window.
His twenties consists of taking care of his widowed mother and owning up to the responsibility of looking after his deceased father’s 24-hour gas station. As his blue-collar night shifts become more irritating and tiresome each day, routine takes over his life.
This lighthearted comedy takes a turn from other comedies by avoiding unnecessary swearing and vulgarity. Not only does this choice of language reflect upon the director, but it also exemplifies the culture of Arab-Americans.
This indie film depicts the generation gap between first-generation Arab parents and second-generation children living in Dearborn, Michigan. The sacrifices children make for their parents are portrayed; ultimately, by choosing to support his mother over studying in California, the son accepts his fate — one he does not want to admit is his. This plot stands apart from most films because it is usually the parents displayed as the caretakers, where in this case it is the opposite.
Nashef takes an interesting aspect of social norms in Arab culture to highlight differences between Arabs and Americans as well as a mix of the cultures.
To say the least, the basis of the plot is quite unique. However, the continuous void in this film is meaningful relationships. The characters in this film lack a certain depth to their personality and give off a rather superficial layer, which the director does not peel away to the core. When the father is killed in the beginning of the film, the director portrays his relationship with his wife, but neglects to do so with his son. In fact, the film does not show the two together at all.
Later, the son and his girlfriend Naj, who are so-called “in love” with each other, present no personal connection, sexual tension or absolutely anything in common to bond over. Yet, they throw around the idea of relationships and marriage within two visits of seeing each other. In an attempt to make the lives and personalities of the characters relatable to Arab audiences, the director made them unrealistically plain. Their personalities were not distinctive or special, they were simply just pretty faces on camera.
The film ends abruptly and confusingly without solving or explaining any of the lovers’ problems. The plot tops off with the rather unoriginal and cheesy “happily ever after” that most movies seem to always have as the ending; it was a cherry on top of a very messy sundae.
Although Nashef highlights a sliver of Arab-American culture and makes the characters relatable through their work and family struggles, the film fails to create an out of the ordinary and meaningful story.
“Detroit Unleaded” sets forth a compelling idea for a film, but lacks the detail and actors to give the plot line justice.
Article via: The South End