Timeliness is certainly on the side of Mira Nair’s uneven but fascinating “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.”
Adapted from the 2007 novel by Mohsin Hamid, it’s about a Pakistani man, aptly named Changez (Riz Ahmed), who leaves his native Lahore to seek the American dream, first at Princeton University and then at a high-powered corporate consulting firm in New York.
When the twin towers are struck, he finds himself clouded by hostility and alienated from his adopted homeland because of his South Asian appearance.
Much of the film is recounted in flashbacks from Lahore in 2011, where Changez has ultimately resettled to become a fiery political professor.
Is he also associated with terrorists?
Bobby (Liev Schreiber), an American journalist who appears to be more than a journalist, wants to know, and their outdoor cafe contretemps is the film’s framing device. Nair has a marvelous eye for utilizing real-life locations for dramatic effect. She makes Changez’s upsets palpable.
The film’s weakness is that too often, especially at the end, it opts for a liberal humanism that seems too touchy-feely for the anguish on the screen.
They know that something vital is at stake in this film.
Grade: B+ (Rated R for language, some violence, and brief sexuality.)