Jeremiah Birnbaum's moving drama Torn is an examination of grief among ordinary people in dire circumstances, and just what it means to be ordinary in post-9/11 America. After their teenage sons are killed in an explosion at a Bay Area mall, well-to-do Pakistani real estate agent Maryam (Mahnoor Baloch) and blue-collar Caucasian cleaning lady Lea (Dendrie Taylor) bond over their mutual grief — a bond which is strained when law enforcement starts suggesting that Maryam's son might have been responsible, what with him being Muslim and thus clearly a potential terrorist. Certain characters are portrayed in somewhat broad strokes, particularly the antagonistic FBI Agent Reese (Sharon Washington, doing the best with what she's given), but that's because the focus is rightly on Baloch and Taylor, who are both fantastic in their roles. While the themes of Muslim assimilation are reminiscent of the recent The Reluctant Revolutionary and The Attack, Torn goes in refreshingly unexpected directions in its narrative, pointing out certain truths about the history of terrorism in America that were not only beyond the scope of those films, but tend to be ignored when bombs explode in real life. And while the ending seems a little contrived at first, upon reflection it makes a terrible kind of sense — also like real life.
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