Review: Love Conquers All in 'Breaking Fast'

by Roger Walker-Dack

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday January 22, 2021

'Breaking Fast'
'Breaking Fast'  

Writer/director Mike Mosallam's debut feature, the enchanting "Breaking Fast," is part queer romantic comedy and part tutorial on the ups and downs of being a gay Arab Muslim living in West Hollywood. Somehow the two are a good fit, so it makes us feel good that love (eventually) conquers all, and we learn something new, too.

The movie opens up on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan. Mo (Haaz Sleiman) has welcomed his family to his home, and they are preparing the meal. However, his longterm boyfriend, who is still very closeted, has chosen the moment to tell him that they need to break up as his family have started to suspect he is gay. Unlike Mo's liberal family, his are ultra-conservative, and the knowledge that he's gay could have fatal consequences.

Fast forward one year to the start of another Ramadan: Mo is still reeling from his heartbreak, but is reluctantly persuaded to go to the birthday of his best friend Sam (Amin El Gamal). Once there, he meets Kal (Michael Cassidy), an all-American jock who is not exactly tough on the eyes. Kal speaks Arabic on account of his father being in the military and stationed in Jordan, but as the two walk though West Hollywood later they discover they also have quite a few other things in common.

Kal invites himself to join Mo in his nightly Iftars, the traditional meal eaten by Muslims during Ramadan after sunset, but as Mo is extremely religious he also insists on abstaining from anything approaching sexual relations. As Mo tries to work through his feelings about Kal and where their budding new friendship could be heading, he gets a text from his ex. It turns out that the former boyfriend has married a woman to avoid all the pressure from his family, but they have already separated; now the ex may want to take up with Mo where they had left off.

Mo is certainly at peace with being a gay Muslim, but his rigid stance — particularly about his faith — doesn't sit too well with everyone. Sam, for instance, is also Arab, and not the least bit religious; he will let nothing get in the way of making out with his American boyfriend. Mo, however, makes the point that in this present political climate, even West Hollywood is not an easy place for gay Arabs to live. That's where the tutorial comes in.

Mosallam adapted this feature from his short film of the same name which had great success, even screening at the Cannes Film Festival. He shows it is a topic that he has a great empathy with, and there is a real authenticity to his witty script. He is also served well by the pitch-perfect performances of his two lead actors.

Mosallam said that his intention was to tell a story that speaks to the nuances of daily life and treats identity — religious, sexual, gender, and otherwise — as harmonious lenses by which individuals interact with the world. He does that here, and lets his characters fall in love, too.

Out on VOD & Digital January 22, 2021

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.