A despairing, kvetching old Jewish man and a teenage African Muslim pot dealer walk into a kosher bakery together.
No, it’s not the start of a tasteless joke, but the premise of Dough, a droll, cross-cultural British dramedy about lonely, displaced souls who grow to love one another.
Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, Pirates of the Caribbean franchise) disappears effortlessly into the role of Nat Dayan, a widowed Orthodox Jewish baker whose beloved shop is going under.
Nat is one of those guys who was born old and tired. You can almost feel the bones ache as he gets up at 4 a.m. to set up the day’s mix of kosher challah, croissants and cookies.
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Founded in 1947 by his dad, Dayan & Son has seen better days, as has its East London neighborhood. His regular customers are moving out or dying of old age, and a nasty, villainous developer is sweeping in to buy the whole block. Worse, Nat’s slick lawyer of a son doesn’t give a fig about bagels or fig rolls.
Director John Goldschmidt skillfully crosscuts Nat’s story with the daily adventures of Ayyash (Jerome Holder), an immigrant teenager who plays hooky all day with his stoner friends while his mom holds down two jobs.
The film’s careful, early characterization pays off when Ayyash ends up as Nat’s apprentice, an almost cataclysmic event that gives them both a heavy dose of culture shock.
Dough has a familiar story line: Enemies at first, the pair learn to appreciate each other until one of them commits a gross betrayal. (It involves hash brownies and marijuana-laced challah.) Eventually, a deeper connection — a true love, a father-son bond — is established.
Dough’s formulaic structure is enlivened by the dynamic chemistry between its leads. Pryce and Holder play off each other with all the bluster and awkwardness of a real-life father and son.
They are ably backed by a host of oddball characters, including Nat’s lonely landlady, Joanna (Pauline Collins), his uptight rabbi (Daniel Ben Zenou), and the neighborhood’s temperamental drug lord (Ian Hart), who seems a little too envious of Nat’s paternal bond with Ayyash.
Dough won’t have you rolling in the aisle with laughter. Its humor is more subtle, ironic — and all the sweeter for it.
Not rated (contains profanity, drug use). 1:34. Kentucky.