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’ve learnt something new too.
The movie opens up on the eve of the Holy month of Ramadan and 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 he needs 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 could have fatal consequences.
Fast forward one year to the start of another Ramadan and 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 not only speaks Arabic on account of his father being in the military stationed in Jordan, but as the two walk though West Hollywood later they discover they have quite a few 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 too. As Mo tries to work his feelings about Kal and where their budding new friendship could be heading he gets a text from his Ex. He had married a woman to avoid all the pressure from his family, but they have already separated, and now he may want to take up with Mo where he 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 and 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 the film 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 did that and make them fall in love too.