1st Born tells the story of Ben (Reza Sixo Safai) and Kate (Taylor Cole), a young couple from very different backgrounds. After trying for many years to have a child without success, finally a miracle happens and Kate is pregnant. However, when the unborn child becomes ill, the two must reach out to their respective fathers in order to transfer healthy bone marrow into the womb. The great challenge of this is due to the fact that Ben’s father, Hamid (Jay Abdo) is a virulent anti-American Iranian politician and Kate’s father, Tucker (Tom Berenger) is an equally virulent anti-Iranian American politician. The plan to save their child is thrown into a grown man-baby conflict that everyone expects, but no one wants to deal with.
Directed by Sam Khoze and Ali Atshani, 1st Born attempts to show the challenges that face the cultural dialogue between Iran and the United States. Interestingly, rather than focus on the relationship between Ben and Kate, the film ultimately shifts its point of view primarily through the eyes of Hamid as he attempts to navigate his time in the US. Featuring veteran actors such as Tom Berenger, Denise Richards, William Baldwin, Robert Knepper and Val Kilmer (as Biden!), its Abdo who proves to be the standout of the cast as the easily-angered yet affable Hamid. As Hamid, Abdo does a solid job as a man who finds himself torn between his political beliefs and his love for his first grandchild. Unfortunately, despite its all-star cast, a wonky and uneven script prevents them from really sinking their teeth into material that is rife with possibility. (For instance, while it’s a fun to see Tom Berenger skewing the US political system, much of the potential for satire remains left untapped.) As a result, while 1st Born has some solid moments if intimacy and humour, the film never fully comes together.
Having said this, at its best, 1st Born does begin a conversation about inter-cultural dialogue and the pitfalls inherent to those sorts of political conversations. Both entrenched in their worldviews, Hamid and Tucker have difficulty seeing one another through any lens other than their own cultural biases. While Hamid believes that Tucker represents a corrupt political system, Tucker refuses to believe that Hamid could be anything other than an Iranian spy. However, as they begin to focus on their mutual love for their grandchild, they gradually come to recognize each other’s humanity and value. As such, both men begin to experience (and offer) grace, despite the vast political gap between that exists between them. In other words, lthough Hamid and Tucker represent diametrically opposed viewpoints (and, to be clear, the film doesn’t side with either of them), they begin to see one another as people and, more importantly, family.
In the end, 1st Born’s attempt to wade into the deep end of one of the most important political arguments of the modern era doesn’t always swim. By underusing their cast and a meandering script, the film unfortunately becomes unfocused on what it wants to accomplish. However, Abdo’s performance and the film’s heart of grace do offer something worth discussing after the credits roll.
1st Born is currently available on VOD on all digital platforms.