It’s incredibly hard to tell where the inspiration for Dough came from. A British-Hungarian co-production about a Jewish baker and an African immigrant sounds like the kind of script Stephen Frears or perhaps Mike Leigh would be taking on. At least they might have done, had the script explored the kind of themes that would gain the attention of such culturally smart filmmakers. Instead, Director John Goldschmidt appears to have been hired as a safe pair of hands to turn a light-hearted, if rather vacuous story into something that could reach a wider audience. And to be fair to Goldschmidt, he’s certainly made this accessible.
Nat Dayan (Jonathan Pryce) is an ageing Jewish baker, eking out a living from his small, family business in the heart of a dying suburban London street. With his right hand man taking the offer of a better paid job at the mini-market next door, Nat’s in need of some help, but the grumpy old codger’s son has become a lawyer instead of a family baker. Meanwhile Ayyash (Jerome Holder) is a young lad living with his single mum in a run-down estate. A local bad-boy drug dealer wants to make Ayyash his street dealer, and despite being way smarter than that, Ayyash knows it’s easy money. But he’ll apparently need a cover job to keep suspicion down/ because the plot calls for it.
Fortunately, Ayyash’s mother works as Nat’s cleaner, so introductions are made and now a black muslim kid is working for a grumpy jewish baker, and cultures are about to clash. Sadly, that’s a plot thread that falls by the wayside. While he clearly enjoys being the grumpy baker’s sidekick way more than a peddler of weed, Ayyash continues with the dual employment, especially when he realises the shop makes a perfect destination for his stoner buddies to come and buy weed.
And when he inadvertently slips the wacky baccy into a batch of bagels, Ayyash turns Nat’s dying shop into the most popular bakers in the greater London area. Naive to the point of stupidity, Dough is a stoner comedy made by people who have never laid eyes on a bag of weed, aimed at an audience that couldn’t pick a bong out of a fancy vase line-up. And that’s fine – the light-hearted script doesn’t call for profanity nor lay judgment on stoners. Indeed, most of the shop’s clientele are… of an age.
And even more reassuringly, the cast carries enough charm to forgive the more wooden elements of the script. Jonathan Pryce leads admirably as the grumpy baker, while based on this evidence, Jerome Holder should go on to better things, instilling the young Ayyash with a heart that the film cries out for. Elsewhere, Phil Davis is a welcome scenery-chomper as the one-dimensional bully-cum-businessman who wants to buy Nat out, and Pauline Collins drops by a handful of times to give Pryce someone to spar with.
Themes of religion and subsequent culture clashes are raised, but under-utilised, like My Beautiful Launderette but without the smarts. Goldschmidt (whose last directing gig was nearly 20 years ago) lends a light touch to proceedings, but rarely bothering to instil any added depth to the shoot.
Well-Intentioned and mildly charming, Dough is an innocent comedy about subjects nobody involved has a particularly good handle on. It’s hard to dislike it, but it’s not the sort of movie you need to rise from your armchair for.
Dough is released on June 2nd