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Dynamic chemistry between kosher baker, immigrant pot dealer in 'Dough'
A despairing, kvetching old Jewish man and a teenage African Muslim pot dealer walk into a kosher bakery together.
No, it's not the start of a tasteless joke, but the premise of "Dough," a rather tasteful, droll, cross-cultural British dramedy about lonely, displaced souls who grow to love one another.
Jonathan Pryce ("Brazil," "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise) disappears effortlessly into the role of Nat Dayan, a widowed Orthodox Jewish baker whose beloved shop is going under.
Plot: Nat is one of those guys who was born old and tired. You can almost feel the bones ache and crackle as he gets up at 4 a.m. to set up the day's mix of kosher challah, croissants and cookies.
Founded in 1947 by his dad, Dayan & Son has seen better days — as has its East London neighborhood. His regular customers are moving out or dying of old age, and a nasty, villainous developer (Philip Davis) is sweeping in to buy the whole block.
Worse, Nat's slick lawyer of a son Stephen (Daniel Caltagirone) doesn't give a fig about bagels or fig rolls.
Apprentice: Director John Goldschmidt ("She'll Be Wearing Pink Pyjamas") skillfully crosscuts Nat's story with the daily adventures of Ayyash (Jerome Holder), an immigrant in his late teens who plays hooky all day with his stoner friends while his mom, Safia (Natasha Gordon), holds down two jobs.
The film's careful, early characterization pays off when Ayyash ends up as Nat's apprentice, an almost cataclysmic event that gives them both a heavy dose of culture shock.
"Dough" has a familiar story line: Enemies at first, the pair learn to appreciate each other until one of them commits a gross betrayal. (It involves hash brownies and marijuana-laced challah.) Eventually, a deeper connection — a true love, a father-son bond — is established.
Chemistry: "Dough's" formulaic structure is made up for by the dynamic chemistry between its leads. Pryce and Holder play off each other with all the bluster and awkwardness of a real-life father and son.
They are ably backed up by a host of oddball characters, including Nat's desperately lonely landlady Joanna (Pauline Collins), his uptight rabbi (Daniel Ben Zenou), and the neighborhood's temperamental drug lord (Ian Hart), who seems a little too envious of Nat's paternal bond with Ayyash.
"Dough" won't have you rolling in the aisle with laughter. Its humor is more subtle, ironic — and all the sweeter for it.
2.5 out of 4 stars
Not rated (profanity, drug use)
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Opening Friday at Small Star Art House in York City.