Colm Meaney and Art Malik lead a strong and quirky cast with Many great bit parts, lots of distinct personalities in the mix, a culture clash comedy that offers hope and the humanness of us all
He leads a quiet life, staying out surfing and drinking with his mates, and trying to make a relationship work with Maeve (Sarah Bolger). But he has no direction, no clear idea of what he wants to do or where he wants to go. Enter his father, Amir (Art Malik), who’s travelled across from Bradford to see him. Keen to help him out, Amir buys a closed-down factory in the hopes of turning it into Ireland’s destination for halal meat. He even hires Maeve’s dad (Colm Meaney), which suggests to Raghdan that he may have changed from the hard, selfish man he once was. But lo and behold, Amir’s true intentions soon come to light, leaving Raghdan in a tricky situation.
Although the plot is a bit lightweight, the cast more than compensate with heartfelt, believable performances across the board. Raghdan’s fraught relationship with his father is particularly well realised and is sure to strike a nerve with many fathers and sons.
The themes of Halal for beginners are universal and deftly explored, from the pressure of trying to fit in, to inter-generational conflicts between parents and their children. It could be accused of painting an overly simplified, rosy picture of the experience of a young immigrant, but McDermottroe is focused on presenting a positive story that shows multicultural Ireland in its best light.
Halal for Beginners may suffer from sticking too closely to its sweet, upbeat tone (the film never delves too deep, nor turns too dark). But it’s funny – the comedy coming from religious stereotypes and Deirdre O’Kane’s pearls of wisdom as Raghdan’s adoptive aunt – and pleasant enough to win over a lot of people.