Mo Review: Netflix’s New Comedy Highlights the Palestinian Experience

In a Texas courthouse, while waiting for his family’s number to be called for a long-awaited hearing, Mo (Mohammed Amer) begins to have a fit of sweat at the least propitious time. Fresh out of a fight with his girlfriend Maria (Teresa Ruiz), worried about his mother, Yusra (Farah Bseiso), and in disbelief that his family of Palestinian refugees can actually get the asylum they’ve needed for so long, Mo is so upset and impatient that he can barely sit still. As with most episodes of “Mo,” the new Netflix series created by Amer and Ramy Youssef (“Ramy”), the stakes are as high as Mo’s rising blood pressure.

But “Mo” is also a comedy with a fast-talking lionheart at its center, and as such, even this incredibly stressful time can vibrate with shivers of ridicule. Mo struggles with a security guard who refuses to share his water when the vending machine breaks down. Yusra, who has spent years waiting for this day, can’t help but focus on Mo’s accusation that giving Maria a cuff bracelet to hide her crucifix tattoo was not, in fact, an entirely altruistic act. Their flighty former lawyer (Cynthia Yelle) smugly parades her current client in front of their new lawyer (Lee Eddy), who is perfectly competent but immediately loses points for not being Palestinian. Meanwhile, Mo’s brother, Sameer (Omar Elba), briefly disappears to hunt a seemingly rare finch. Even though they’re all doing their best to keep themselves and their family in one piece, the show continues to find ways to let Mo and the rest of the Najjar family stay entirely themselves.

Over eight half-hour episodes, “Mo” immerses us in Mo’s life in Texas in the months leading up to his hearing. Years after his family fled Kuwait and couldn’t return home to Palestine, Mo is now an affable hustler selling designer replicas out of his trunk while juggling jobs that will outgrow his lack of US citizenship. . Director Solvan “Slick” Naim finds a loose rhythm that vacillates between Najjars and occasional flashbacks to Mo’s childhood when Mo’s father (Mohammad Hindi) was still alive with lived-in ease. Shot on location in Houston, “Mo” tackles every location – whether it’s a boxing ring, a strip club, a $6 million mansion or a bucolic olive grove. – with the same possibility that a story is waiting to be told.

Mo’s devoted relationship with his family is immediately believable and clear, as are his breezy dynamic with best friend Nick (Tobe Nwigwe) and close bond with Maria (played with charm grounded by Ruiz). Even when the show throws Mo into deeper waters — especially with local mobster Dante (Rafael Castillo) or an accidental jaunt to Mexico — its deeply relatable “how the hell did I end up in everything. this?!” his reactions make him a solid guide through every surprising turn.

However, as most who know Mo well enough can tell, his ability to joke around in any situation belies a deep sadness he refuses to acknowledge at the point of the aforementioned sweaty meltdown. Because, yes: ‘Mo’ may be a comedy, but it’s still about following the journey of a specific experience of grief and unprocessed trauma that follows refugees like the Najjars throughout their lives . That Mo still finds so much to laugh about anyway is credit to the show’s ability to tell a truly nuanced story of a Palestinian man, family, and experience that television recognizes. rarely at all, not to mention spotlights with half as much consideration and style as “Month.”

“Mo” is now available to stream on Netflix.

Robert M. Larson