The Infidel (‘The Reluctant Infidel’)

COMEDY; 1hr 45min

STARRING: Omid Djalili, Archie Punjabi, Richard Schiff

If the cap fits … From left, Schiff and Djalili

Mahmud (Djalili) is caught in a life-shattering culture shock. The roly-poly pepperpot Muslim from London’s East End has just learned he’s adopted — and Jewish (birth name: Solly Shimshillewitz, as if the Jewish thing wasn’t enough of a shock). Plus Mahmud’s son (Amit Shah) is about to marry a girl (Soraya Radford) whose stepfather (Yigal Naor) is an extremist Muslim cleric — Allah willing, that is.


Director Josh Appignanesi takes a quasi-cartoony tone, ricocheting between broadstroke sight gags and wry commentary. Mahmud is torn between embracing his biological heritage while staying true to his antithetical lifelong beliefs — and you can’t get more torn than that. Since he doesn’t dare tell his family, the only person who knows the truth is a hard-drinking American Jewish cabbie (Schiff); for her part, Mahmud’s pretty wife (Punjabi) is convinced her suddenly absent husband is playing up. (In fact, he’s boning up on Judaism — sort of.) They’re heavy-handed and erratic but none of these antics are the least bit mean-spirited and the acceptance issue they’re playing with is obviously a biggie. Which makes this a statement worth making, kinks and shortcomings regardless.