The immigrant experience is treated with innocuous earnestness in this sweet—and ultimately toothless—look at the bumpy transition from a troubled native land to a promising but prejudiced new world. Palestinian single mom Muna (Faour) leaves the Israeli-occupied West Bank for rural Illinois, where she and son Fadi (Muallem) live with sister Raghda (Abbass) and her family. They want to start a new life away from military checkpoints and harassing soldiers, but as the Iraq War heats up, Muna finds that an anxious America has its own set of obstacles for her to overcome.
Aside from a few moments of dark irony—SUPPORT OUR OOPS says one accidentally letter-deprived fast-food placard—Amreeka offers little genuine conflict (Fadi trades blows with high-school classmates; Muna can’t get a white-collar job because she’s an Arab). Our heroes are never really in serious peril, nor do they have any deep soul-searching or true tests of character. They all just muddle along, gingerly planting roots in a strange land. If the story were more arresting, and the filmmaking more original, then the notions of post-9/11 assimilation might be more compelling. As it stands, the movie just serves up another warmed-over Ellis Island rehash.—Stephen Garrett