The quiet, melancholy indie “Aram, Aram,” the feature debut of writer-director Christopher Chambers, tells a multigenerational Armenian immigrant yarn through the eyes of a suddenly orphaned 12-year-old Lebanese boy.
John Roohinian stars as as Aram in the movie “Aram Aram,” directed by Christopher Chambers. (LAFF / LAFF)
His home life in Beirut struck by tragedy, young Aram (John Roohinian) is sent to Los Angeles’ Little Armenia to live with his grandfather Arsen (Levon Sharafyan), who runs a modest shoe repair business. The old guardian tries to instill in his grieving charge a sense of community and pride. Impressionable Aram is distracted, however, by the serious-looking gangster-wannabe Hakop (Sevak Hakoyan), who routinely visits Arsen’s shop to offer him protection from those who target Armenians.
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It’s not hard to see where this is all going, as clichéd as Chambers’ clashing signifiers are — one generation’s hoodies and rap music versus the old world pleasures of pastries and poetry — but he puts a lot of trust in the emotional weather of his actors’ faces, and they’re suitably expressive. Newcomer Roohinian carries a lot of heartbreaking confusion and insecurity in his young-but-suddenly-old eyes, and veteran actor Sharafyan imbues his proud, values-strong character with a touching mixture of responsibility and wariness.
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“Aram, Aram” is almost too lightweight to have real power, but its snapshot of a vibrant local community and a hollowed-out transplant’s very real identity crisis feels genuine.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 19 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle’s Town Center 5, Encino; Pacific Glendale 18.