Adan, a young Muslim refugee in Minneapolis, is temporarily homeless and forever between jobs. This film is cross section of his every day experience. On this particular day, he’s cut off from home, wandering around with nowhere to go: a stray. But then he crosses paths with a fellow stray, a scruffy mutt that, being Muslim, Adan can’t even bring himself to touch. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get attached…
Adan (Barkhad Abdirahman) is a little immature, and finds the outside world to be all-too tempting. He’s not equipped to care for himself, much less a dog that his religion rules unclean. But perhaps he sees a bit of himself in the mutt he calls Layla.
Writer-director Musa Syeed shows us a side of Minneapolis rarely seen – the mosques, alleys, businesses, and social services accessed by its influx of Somalian refugees (the largest population outside of Africa). The film is meandering but not as aimless as it first seems. Adan has a lot of room for self-actualization and self-improvement, but Syeed doesn’t insult us with a quick fix. Instead, the dog is a catalyst for Adan’s adopting a gentler perspective to the unknown. The result is a realistic testament to the immigrant experience. Both Adan and the stray dog are unwanted but the film resists a too on-the-nose metaphor. Instead it chooses to see possibility and understanding, which is a beautiful thing to see in theatres, especially at this particular time when the question of refugees is so urgent, and some people’s response so full of hate and ignorance.
Barkhad Abdirahman gives a strong performance, thankfully since he’s the anchor in this minimalist story. He and Ayla (yes, the dog gets second billing!) have excellent chemistry, and his care for her pulls our heart strings gently in the right direction.