Growing up in Brooklyn, with a Jewish mother (Dagmara Dominczyk) and atheist father (Arian Moayed), 12-year-old Abe (Noah Schnapp) is in the middle of discovering who he is and what he believes in. Abe’s mother comes from a long line of Jewish tradition and his father, despite being an atheist himself, comes from a Muslim family. These two halves of Abe’s identity clash against each other, especially as his grandparents come from the divided Israeli and Palestinian states and openly express disdain and frustration for each other.
What Abe does know is that he loves to cook and he will take any opportunity he has to be able to cook for his family, even if they are not really paying attention. As summer comes along, though, Abe’s parents, who are having their own struggles in marriage, want to get him out of the house and so Abe decides to sign up for a junior chef’s program. This program, unfortunately, is not to Abe’s liking and is far below his skillset. Instead, he inserts himself into the test kitchen of Chico (Seu Jorge), local fusion chef turning the street food scene on its head. At first, Chico is incredibly hesitant and does not want Abe around, but he eventually gives in and lets the young boy have a chance. But, first, he has to wash the dishes and take out the trash.
As the story moves forward, Abe does have his time in the kitchen and learns new skills as a chef. And, by spending time around Chico and fusion foods, this allows Abe to do his own self-reflection as he goes between the Jewish and Islamic traditions of his family.
Abe is a short and incredibly focused film, narrowing in at just an hour and twenty-five minutes long. Admittedly, this feels too short as some of the characters never get a chance to be fully fleshed out, and nor does the main relationship between Abe and Chico. Still, with this in mind, the story is a good one, with themes meant to uplift and bring a family together.
Noah Schnapp, who is best known for playing Will Beyers in Stranger Things, turns in a performance that is commendable. At just fifteen years old, this young actor has talent as an actor, and Abe serves as a firm foundation for what could turn into a healthy and interesting career in film. The frustration and enthusiasm that Schnapp projects through his performance go a long way in making the audience interested in this character’s story.
The ensemble making up Abe’s extended family, too, provides insight into what many families experience as their children marry people from other faiths. Abe, as a product of his parent’s marriage, is forced to bring these clashing attitudes together if he hopes to have a family at all who respects him and his choices. While there are certainly some tense moments, the performances in this family, and particularly Abe’s uncle Ari (Daniel Oreskes), provide moments of levity and humor.
Abe is quality family entertainment, with a simple and straightforward story that will bring anybody together. It is now available to rent or purchase on Vudu, Amazon, and other popular on-demand platforms.