Though Hala stands out at school – she wears long sleeves and long pants underneath her P.E. uniform – she doesn’t seem to have any real social struggles. Standing in front of her class she reads fearlessly from her own poetically insightful personal journal, and she wins the admiration and affection of her literature-loving classmate Jesse (Jack Kilmer).

Indeed, home is where the conflict is. While Hala enjoys a close relationship with her doting lawyer father, her religiously devout mother is always on her back. “Do you love her,” Hala asks her father. “That’s a silly question,” he replies. “Marriage is more than about love. It’s about values.” But while families might have values they also have secrets, and the Masood family’s are about to come tumbling out into the daylight.

Young Australian Geraldine Viswanathan delivers a performance of tremendous poise – another streak in her trajectory to stardom.

Young Australian Geraldine Viswanathan delivers a performance of tremendous poise – another streak in her trajectory to stardom. Credit:Apple TV+

The first thread is tugged when Hala makes a chance sighting of Shannon (Anna Chlumsky), a colleague of her father’s at the law firm. Then, when Hala’s parents react angrily to her own growing intimacy with Jesse, everything seems on the verge of collapse.

Writer-director Minhal Baig, herself the daughter of Pakistani immigrants, grounds the film in her own experiences, though Hala is a distinct character who makes different choices. Baig has a keen memory for the tender urgencies of youth – and she could scarcely have found anyone better than Viswanathan to bring them poignantly to the screen.

Baig is also keenly aware of how large the Old Country can loom over immigrant families, and how quickly it can reimpose itself with powerful effect. She invests her most important characters with depths and histories that bring some surprising turns in the story, even if some of the supporting characters feel a bit underdeveloped.

It’s not a perfect film – the denouement certainly drags on a bit – but it’s compelling and touching, and the role of Hala is another bright streak on what should be Viswanathan’s trajectory to out-and-out stardom. An audience favourite at Sundance and other film festivals this year, it thoroughly deserves being picked up by Apple.

The Report

Amazon Prime Video

Adam Driver embodies righteous single-mindedness as Daniel J. Jones, the US Senate investigator who led the inquiry into the CIA’s use of torture in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

This new movie, written and directed by Scott Z. Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum) whipsaws between time periods with sometimes dizzying speed. With the help of Annette Bening and Jon Hamm, it provides a confronting picture of the atrocities committed and the determination of both sides of politics to hush things up.

Forky Asks a Question

Disney +

Forky, it turns out, is a plastic fork with googly eyes and pipe-cleaner arms that served as part of a kid’s craft project in the latest Toy Story movie.

Now he has his own little snack-sized series, in which he proves quite charming and expressive – thanks in no small part to the lovely voice work by Tony Hale (Arrested Development). But, being a piece of disposable cutlery, Forky is a bit light on for general knowledge, so he has to get other Toy Story characters to explain concepts like money and friendship.

Ready for War

Stan*

A shocking documentary introducing us to some of the thousands of foreign-born US military veterans who have been deported for crimes they committed after completing the service they were promised would earn them citizenship.

Ready for War, on Stan, is a shocking documentary about the deportation of foreign-born US war veterans.

Ready for War, on Stan, is a shocking documentary about the deportation of foreign-born US war veterans.Credit:Jeffrey Peterman/Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Most horrifying is the case of a veteran who, like many others, has been forced into servitude by a Mexican drug cartel that makes him murder rivals and train other cartel killers to become ever more deadly. Legal victories against a hostile US administration come when you least expect it.

Dolemite Is My Name

Netflix

This riotous, poignant and uplifting true story couldn’t have been told half as well without the singular magnetism and intensity of Eddie Murphy at its heart.

Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore, who by the early ’70s was a washed-up musician unhappily working in an LA record store. But, as we see, Moore is about to enjoy one of the most remarkable do-it-yourself career revivals showbiz has ever seen.

Eddie Murphy gives an astutely measured performance in Netflix's Dolemite Is My Name.

Eddie Murphy gives an astutely measured performance in Netflix’s Dolemite Is My Name.Credit:Netflix

When Rudy sees the stories and shtick of a homeless man (Ron Cephas Jones) proving a hit with locals, a lightbulb flickers on. Rudy is soon using booze and dollar bills to buy homeless people’s humour, which he turns into a string of filthy “party records” that make him a star. But Rudy has a bigger ambition: to star in his own self-produced big-screen movie.

Writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Auto Focus, The People vs. Larry Flynt) and director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow) craft an absorbing and illuminating narrative underpinned by terrific music and costume design. Murphy’s astutely measured performance is complemented by great casting at almost every turn. Great stuff.

Ghostwriter

Apple TV+

A watchable little fantasy-mystery series that aims to get kids reading children’s classics again – for the fun of it and for the relevance the books still have to children’s lives.

Four kids embark on a mission to solve an otherworldly mystery in Ghostwriter.

Four kids embark on a mission to solve an otherworldly mystery in Ghostwriter. Credit:Apple TV+

It involves four middle-school kids who might never have become friends had not a benign but barely communicative poltergeist herded them into becoming a little Scooby Gang. Before long the kids find themselves dealing with an exceedingly anxious but adorably rendered CGI rabbit voiced by Neil Patrick Harris.

Looks like Wonderland is coming to town.

*Stan is owned by Nine, the publisher of this masthead.

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