Namour tells yet another side of L.A. we haven’t seen.
It’s like Drive except they’re parking cars instead.
I was exploring my NEW Netflix queue — yay, Mystery Science Theatre! — but scrolling through, something stuck out about Namour.
Namour is about Steven Bassem. A twenty-something Egyptian-heritage American man working as a valet for a somewhat fancy restaurant. Despite his family’s encouragement, he can’t quite muster the motivation to find a new job. At the same time, his family starts to disintegrate, and Steven starts to break down too.
Steven Bassem is at an interesting stage of life that we’ve all been through, that period when you’re still very much the “kid” of your family, but you’re trying to make your own way. Half of the movie takes place at Steven’s job, and the other half is home life (with some girlfriend and mate stuff in between). He isn’t a child to his parents, nor a grown man able to make his own decisions. He’s something in between. What’s great is that the movie doesn’t try too hard to ratchet up the tension between Steven’s two worlds. The movie assumes that you’re smart enough to recognise it.
One of me favourite scenes is at a family party, where Steven gets into a debate with what we assume are uncles about Middle Eastern politics. Steven raises some good points, buuuut he’s also a bit outclassed by the grownups talking. They have confidence, he has frustration. Again, it’s Steven in the middle. He can’t sit at the kid’s table, but he also can’t quite hold his own with the adults, either.
Showing all of this through the lens of a young man born from an immigrant family highlights this even further. Not only is he torn because of his age, but he’s torn between American modernity and cultural tradition.
This is also brought to life through the casting. Karim Saleh plays Steven, who both is and looks much older than his character. Which makes him feel out of place wherever he is. He’s way too old to be a valet mates, let alone be the sort-of-kid of the family.
The funny thing about Steven’s world is that while he’s standing still, everyone is trying to move on. His mother is selling her house. His sister has graduated university. A friend “leaves” his valet job and gets a new, more exciting job. His father tries to encourage him to find success. The only other person who seems to want to maintain the status quo is his grandmother. But following an accident that puts him in hospital, she tells him that he doesn’t get to be the first one to die. Even she wants to move on before he does!
Really my only problem with the movie is that it isn’t as relatable as it could be. I’m watching this movie as a non-American, non-valet, ex-twenty-something non-immigrant. But I can still relate to something that isn’t directly part of my world. I watch a movie like Tangerine and was immediately invested in the film, and that’s about as far away a world can get from mine while still being English-speaking (at least some of it). Whereas in Namour, I felt like I was watching someone else’s story unfold, and I wasn’t involved.
And there are absolutely themes here that could be universal. Like the feeling of everyone else moving on without you. I left high school and went straight to work, while many of my friends went on to university. At the same time my parents were moving house. I felt a bit left behind. It’s a small thing. But I didn’t feel that pang from Namour.
Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t interesting. I especially loved the cinematography of Namour. There are sequences where we’re focused on one shot for 3+minutes, and everything is conveyed through audio. Or the soundtrack. Or text conversations, which is conveyed through text overlays. There’s one scene which is literally two minutes of the back of Steven’s head, at night on a beach, texting someone as the waves wash up on the shore. But it’s fascinating and gripping. I love cinematography that isn’t afraid to just let the camera sit and let the audience absorb.
In the end, Namour is someone’s movie. It doesn’t belong to me, and more importantly, it doesn’t belong to multiple layers of bean counters. It tells a unique story in a unique way, and taps into truths that, while not made universal, are still true. Which makes it worth a look.