As we spend the film’s 86-minute run time getting to know Donya, we witness the little bumps of intonation in her monotone speech. We can discern minute changes in her disposition that point to nervousness, hope, annoyance, and dejection. This is a testament to the tight grip that Zada has on Donya’s truth and authenticity. The terrific nuance of her portrayal is utterly real. It makes us feel like we truly know her. Her performance doesn’t lay it out flat; it gives us empathetic credit.
Donya yearns for sleep, stable ground, love, and fulfillment. A beacon finally comes in the film’s final act via an innocuous but impactful run-in with a timid, though very charming mechanic played by Jeremy Allen White. This meet cute is endearing enough, and Zada and White’s chemistry translates through the screen, but it’s a notable divergence from the value the film had built thus far. Such a tacked-on romantic subplot feels overly convenient and simplified, undercutting her agency and self-efficacy with a white knight in a dirty jumpsuit. White’s inclusion is well executed, and yet the absolution it is treated with is unneeded. Love is only a modicum of Donya’s story. The perspective of immigrant guilt and her desire to overcome herself is markedly treated with more interest and heft elsewhere in “Fremont.” But the film treats the potential of a romance with a resolve that feels like a familiar, vacant bullet point from many female-forward narratives previously written by men.
“Fremont” contains a notable calmness in its filmmaking, and its gorgeous lead performance quietly reaches poignance without flamboyance. It is a stunning mood piece that takes pride in its stillness and slow pace, ultimately delivering a tale of intimacy, searching, and quiet strength.
Now playing in theaters.