The first 10 minutes or so of this film are almost completely dialogue-free. All we see during this time is the camera following a Pakistani immigrant selling bagels and coffee off a sidewalk cart in New York city. It almost feels like a documentary with the camera just following this guy as he goes about his daily business of pushing his cart to his corner, preparing his cart and getting ready for the first few customers, the small talk with the regulars and his interaction with other immigrants in the locality who seem to know each other by name. Bahrani seems to have a gift for being able to capture the lives of these people we see all around us but rarely see in films. I think I would’ve been perfectly happy to watch Ahmad go about the minutiae of his life for the rest of the film.
We are eventually introduced to a couple of new characters who strike up a friendship with Ahmad and start to learn a little more about Ahmad’s past. Here again, Bahrani shows great restraint by not trying to tell us too much about Ahmad’s past or to try and explain how he got to where we see him today. Another one of my favorite parts of this film, apart from those amazing first few minutes were the scenes between Ahmad and Mohammad as they get more acquainted with one another. For the most part, this film is not really about big tragedies or huge dramatic events. Rather it is about small disappointments and indignities and I found the depiction of these in the film really effective.
Unfortunately, the film takes some sort of dramatic turn in the last 20 minutes or so and this is the one part of the movie that didn’t work as well for me. For one, it felt unnecessary. The bleakness and hopelessness of Ahmad’s life is apparent to us throughout the film and this whole sequence did little more than underline that for me. Secondly, it leads to a rather clunky exchange between Ahmad and Mohammad. However, this is really a minor complaint because the rest of the film is really great. Both Ahmad Razvi and Leticia Dolera are great in the respective roles.
It was fun being able to follow all the foreign language dialogue in a film perfectly without needing subtitles at all for a change! Plus, the movie features some music by a Pakistani singer that I like quite a bit.
Despite my reservations about one aspect of the plot (or rather the fact that there exists a plot), I really liked a film a lot and all the folks who enjoyed Chop Shop and watched it for the Filmspots should really check out Man Push Cart.