Review: Despite the complex and painstakingly sad material baked into Fremont, the movie never overplays those emotions. It’s still relentless in its comedy and hope at the same time. An achievement in tone delivered by Anaita Wali Zada and Jeremy Allen White.
I was curious to check out Fremont for a few reasons. The first of those reasons being I’m contractually obligated to see everything Jeremy Allen White is in for the foreseeable future. He’s got the juice that very few actors working in Hollywood have right now. I was also curious to see the latest film from Babak Jalali – editor and a leading collaborator on last year’s Amanda, which I reviewed earlier in the week and absolutely loved. MUBI is also the streaming service home for Fremont, which signaled a high floor for the film considering MUBI rarely misses with one of their acquisitions.
I wouldn’t call Fremont slight or quaint, rather sweet and intentionally understated. Much like Amanda, it’s unusually frank in its delivery. Jalali has a finger on the pulse of communication between young adults, and although you could picture a world where both of these movies are set decades prior, there’s a modernity to how they communicate that insists otherwise.
And Fremont carries a serious side that the other film does not. Donya (Anaita Wali Zada) is an Afghan refugee who served as a translator for the United States military. She has since moved to Fremont, California and drifts through life between a writing position at a fortune cookie company, meandering appointments with her eccentric therapist (played by Gregg Turkington), and lonely, restless nights unable to sleep in her motel room.
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The film is shot in beautiful black and white by Laura Valladao and really gives attention to the performances and script. Black and white may be all the craze these days, but few films offer it to enhance the softer undertones quite like this. Zada is tremendous in the leading role; she has an ability to reflect empathy without it being overbearing. Despite the complex and painstakingly sad material baked in by the narrative, it never overplays those emotions. It’s still relentless in its comedy and hope at the same time.
And although I initially stated that I came to Fremont to see Jeremy Allen White in another leading role, he’s surprisingly absent from the movie for a good chunk of it. He doesn’t appear until the final 20ish minutes, and when he does, you feel like you’re floating out of your seat.
The interactions between Zada and White are remarkably dense despite the few words they actually share together. “Hurt people help hurt people” seems to be a common theme among many of my favorite movies lately, and Fremont etches another beautiful entry into the micro-genre.
Maybe I was coming off the high of Amanda so I instinctively compared the two, and I’m not sure if I would say Fremont is the better film. Where Amanda is so deadpan and deranged, Fremont is quiet and meticulous. They’re both great at what they set out to accomplish, but Fremont may take a couple watches to sink through to that next layer, where you feel it circling around you and eventually closing in. Needless to say, I’ll be checking out Babak Jalali’s work moving forward (and of course, Jeremy Allen White’s).
Watch Fremont on MUBI and VOD
Fremont Cast and Credits
Anaita Wali Zada as Donya
Jeremy Allen White as Daniel
Gregg Turkington as Dr. Anthony
Director: Babak Jalali
Cinematography: Laura Valladao
Editor: Babak Jalali
Composer: Mahmood Schricker