Breaking Fast is a delicate, charming, and welcomingly chaste love story that features an old-fashioned appeal.
The marketing materials for the new queer comedy Breaking Fast make the film look like the kind of salacious, low-budget filler clogging the pipelines of Amazon Prime, with its smiling, attractive male leads promising a few moments of full-frontal nudity and not much else. What a surprise, then, that the movie features what is quite possibly the most chaste gay romance ever put to film, the kind that would feel comfortably at home on the Hallmark network. Aside from some talk of “B.V.” (butt virginity) and a brief moment of bare buttocks, writer-director Mike Mosallam takes a far more subdued approach to his material, a respectful tone that feels tied to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan that features prominently in his story of two damaged thirty-somethings tentatively searching for love in West Hollywood. Mohammed (Haaz Sleiman) is a devoutly religious Muslim man recovering from a failed relationship with a closeted partner; Kal (Tom Hardy-lookalike Michael Cassidy) is attempting to overcome familial demons that have left him wary of love. Both meet and bond during the 30 days of Ramadan, with Kal’s time spent as a Navy brat in Jordan providing him with knowledge of both the holiday itself and the delectable dishes served each night as part of the titular ritual. Abstinence of not only food, but any sort of sinful activity or impure thoughts during the hours between sunrise and sunset provide Mohammed and Kal the time to truly get to know one another; but why they don’t take sexy advantage of the night is another question entirely, so palpable is Sleiman and Cassidy’s chemistry.
Breaking Fast has far more on its mind than mere possible canoodling, though, as Mosallam goes out of his way to shine light on a religion that is too often misrepresented and commonly misunderstood by most American audiences, and the potential hypocrisy that exists at the heart of any organized religion when it comes to its treatment of the gay community. Good intentions aside, one does wish the film approached its talking points in a more organic manner, as the proceedings practically grind to a halt for a late-film dinner conversation that addresses everything on Mosallam’s mind in regards to Islam and homosexuality. And it doesn’t help matters that, aside from the two leads, the performances are wildly inconsistent and the filmmaking style beyond bland. Still, there is something decidedly charming, almost novel even, in the film’s refusal to give in to anything even remotely vulgar or risqué; when the two leads finally kiss in the film’s closing moments, it truly means something. That old-fashioned flair is a welcome touch, and if Breaking Fast is an admittedly flawed film, it’s also a well-intentioned and very sweet one. Its small surprises help sustain it, but one remains: why is this being released in January and not later this Spring, when Ramadan actually takes place?
Published as part of Before We Vanish | January 2021.