Facing the closure of his kosher bakery, East Ender Nat Dayan (Jonathan Pryce) takes on Darfur Muslim Ayyash Habimana (Jerome Holder) as his apprentice. But his delight at a sudden sales boom dissipates when he discovers that Ayyash has been using an illegal secret ingredient.
It was hilarious a century ago when the health spa mineral water was spiked with hooch in Charlie Chaplin's The Cure and Gregg Araki still managed to amuse by having struggling actress Anna Faris unknowingly eat cannabis cupcakes in Smiley Face (2007). But the laughs are fewer and further between in this affable story about a Muslim bakery apprentice who laces his Jewish boss' produce with the merchandise supplied by a thuggish dealer who is matched for hissability by the grasping minimart owner who wants to turn the rejuvenated store into a car park.
Its plea for tolerance in troubled times is welcome.
Yet, in many ways, this well-intentioned treatise on race, religion, bigotry, migration and the decline of familial and communal traditions is a remarkable project, as co-writer Jez Freedman battled Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome to produce a screenplay that allowed veteran director John Goldschmidt to explore Jewish-Muslim relations after he’d been forced to abandon an earlier refugee-camp drama after Arab-Israeli collaborator Juliano Mer-Khamis was murdered.
The plot is riddled with stereotypes and clichéd conflicts to be resolved, while it's never made clear how Ayyash (Jermoe Holder) pays Victor (Ian Hart) for his drugs when Nat (Jonathan Pryce) is the one raking in the profits. But the byplay between Holder and the ever-watchable Pryce more than atones, as do knowing supporting turns by Phil Davis and Pauline Collins as Pryce's business rival and widowed landlady.
The plot may turn on a hoary comic conceit, but its plea for tolerance in troubled times is as welcome as the familiar faces in the willing cast.