(director/writer: Nardeep Kharmi; cinematographer: Christopher Low; editor: Emily Chao; music: Simon Taufique; cast:  Caroline Valencia (Elena), Nardeep Kharmi (Kiran Singh), Karen David (Asha), Tina Parker (Sandra), Iqbal Theba (Gurinda), Pallavi Sastry (Preeti), Riti Sachdeva (Raveena), Dustin Wilson (Agent Walker); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Keertana Sastry/Nardeep Kharmi/Pallavi Sastry/Simon Taufique; HBO Max; 2022-USA-English, Spanish, Punjabi)

“Didn’t move me as much as it should have.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Nardeep Kharmi in his directorial debut makes an earnest but awkwardly contrived morality-play road-trip indie film that turns into an over-plotted melodrama that didn’t move me as much as it should have. Kharmi also stars and produces it.

The film was financed in part by AT&T and the Tribeca Film Festival.

The brown-skinned Kiran Singh (Nardeep Kharmi) is a middle-class Punjabi American truck driver who notices he’s hauling in the back of his truck the brown-skinned 10-year-old undocumented Mexican immigrant stowaway Elena (Caroline Valencia) and decides not to turn her over to the authorities after wrestling with that decision, Instead he takes her with him as he crosses the country from California to Maine, where she says her uncle has a home and will take her in.

Kiran’s expecting wife Preeti (Pallavi Sastry) is watched over at home by his overbearing traditional Sikh mother (Riti Sachdeva). Preeti is disappointed Kiri went on the road, as she wanted him home with her to share the birth experience and thought he agreed.

On the road Kiran has flashbacks of his late alcoholic father (Iqbal Theba), who felt blessed that he came to America to give his family a chance to better themselves by living the American Dream. But Kiran, on the other hand, is uncertain of the future, and fears he will make the same mistakes his father did.

It’s a heartfelt film that in the third act gives us much too much of a sentimental story, as its bittersweet social commentary on the immigrant experience loses its lyrical message as it awkwardly warns us that we must learn how to persevere in such a diverse country where one person’s God is not for all.

It played at the Tribeca Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 5/20/2023  GRADE: C+