Shem Written and directed by Caroline Roboh HP Releasing, opens May 26, Village East
At his grandmother's request, callow 19-year-old Daniel (Ash Newman, a poor man's Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) travels from London to the Jewish quarters of Paris, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, and Belgrade to search for her father's gravelost to time or to the Holocaust, if it exists at all. Along the way, night train hookups and bisexual disco dancing give way to a more secure sense of selfhood, and Daniel's hesitance at reciting the Shema blooms into a vague, unstated respect for his religion and its adherents. (Local color and half-baked metaphor, Kafka's grave presents itself.) The title means "name" in Hebrew, but wherever he goes, Daniel inexplicably opts for aliasesdespite the fact that a name may be all his great-grandfather left behind. Arrhythmic and personal, Shem finally amounts to an earnest travelogue, strung together by solemn insinuations about history, class, and the nature of identity.