Failing Kosher bakery owner and Orthodox Jew Nat Dayan has a dilemma.
Business in London’s East End is poor, his lone employee has quit, a real-estate developer seeks to tear down his building and a son wants him to retire.
Unwilling to step aside, the elderly, crotchedly baker (Jonathan Pryce) reluctantly hires Ayyash (Jerome Holder), a Muslim teenager from Syria who sells pot on the side, to help his immigrant mother. When Ayyash tries to hide marijuana by adding it to a batch of challah – oy vey! – sales start going through the roof under the clueless Dayan, leading to a chain of events that turns their lives topsy-turvy.
The recipe for director John Goldschmidt’s bittersweet, cross-cultural comedy about the budding friendship and hard-earned acceptance between Dayan and his young apprentice offers few surprises, but the interplay between the two actors is a pleasure to watch.
Pryce cuts a compelling figure as the kvetching widower with a big chip on his shoulder that begins to lift after his young employee enters his life. Newcomer Holder also holds the screen as a rudderless youth who, like his counterpart, is at first distrustful of the other’s religious practices and intentions. That makes him the improbable, metaphorical “Son” in the Dayan & Son bakery, founded in 1947, as Dayan helps the teen carve out a future career while the youth injects new life into an old business and an old man.
The story’s cast of characters include a son (Daniel Caltagirone), who looks down on his father’s old-world ways and can’t conceal his jealous feelings towards his father’s bonding with Ayyash; a recently widowed landlady (Pauline Collins) who has eyes for the baker; and the villainous developer (Philip Davis) determined to replace Dayan’s bakery with a soulless development.
“Dough” gets its heft from the mixture of the sweet and the bitter, and the possibility of understanding between the protagonists without sugarcoating their differences. It’s worth biting into.
3 stars (Out of four)
Starring Jonathan Pryce, Jerome Holder, Pauline Collins. Directed by John Goldschmidt. 94 minutes. Not rated, but PG-13 equivalent for drug references. Now showing at the North Park Theatre.