Amreeka lurches from comic-book realism to join-the-dots melodrama.
Amreeka (the Arabic word for America) starts with gritty scenes of institutionalised humiliation in the Palestinian territories before quickly switching to a strange, tragicomic culture-clash melodrama – placing clumsy, kind and penniless Muna and her intelligent teenage son Fadi against the casual, diffident ignorance of a suburban America gearing up for the invasion of Iraq.
As Muna struggles to work in blue-collar jobs, Fadi endures at a school that sees him as an F.O.B (fresh off the boat) and the terrorism taunts he cops from his white-trash new classmates that leads him, predictably, to rebel.
In attempt to sustain momentum, the film begins to lurch from comic-book realism to join-the-dots melodrama. But such over-steps are compensated by a genuflection to the human desire to persevere and a keen eye for situational humour.
"What’s your country of residence?" the Border Officer asks as Muna and Fadi go through customs.
"We don’t have one," comes the patient response. "We’re from the Palestinian territories."
The Officer roles his eyes. "Occupation?" "Yes, we’ve been occupied for 40 years."
In another moment, as it starts to dawn the war in Iraq isn’t going to plan, they drive past a roadsign with missing letters: 'Support Our oops.'