Directed by Diane Crespo and Stefan C. Schaefer
Opens December 14, Quad Cinema
A film setting out to tell of the unlikely friendship between an Orthodox Jew and a devout Muslim must struggle mightily to avoid building-bridges PSA terrain; Arranged simply surrenders to expectation. Viewers are literally schooled on cultural sensitivity: First-year teachers Rochel (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Nasira (Francis Benhamou) are initially united in imparting tolerance to their students, then in resisting their boomer principal's attempts to forcibly liberate them from the "patriarchal" chains of faith. That outsider's bond is sealed as they commiserate over the stress of their upcoming arranged marriages. Walking around Brooklyn together earns them plenty of close-upped queer looks, though directors Diane Crespo and Stefan C. Schaefer sidestep the big interfaith conflicts in favor of a benevolent cross-cultural show-and-tell (the film's evenhandedness is mathematically calibrated). Lamentable scenes include that comic relief stand-by, the Bad Date Montage, but the movie comes off better than it should by virtue of Benhamou and (especially) Lister-Jones, appealing and modest young actors who create a plausible central relationship between "See what good friends we are?" photo ops.