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Review: The drama 'Jinn' lyrically explores identity, religion and sexuality

Review: The drama 'Jinn' lyrically explores identity, religion and sexuality
Zoe Renee in the movie "Jinn." (Bruce Francis Cole / Orion Classics)

Writer-director Nijla Mu’min makes a strong feature debut with “Jinn,” a drama about shifting identities and shifting relationships in which a young woman comes to terms with her family and herself within the context of a new religion.

Zoe Renee, in her first feature film role, is luminous and magnetic as Summer, a headstrong teen whose mother Jade (Simone Missick) has a spiritual awakening and converts to Islam. A single mother and a local TV meteorologist, Jade finds that Islam fills her soul. Summer converts as well, despite her fluid, unashamed expressions of sexuality and her lack of experience with religion. A Muslim friend from school, Tahir (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), helps her with the transition, and a romance blossoms between the teens.

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Mu’min focuses on the characters’ experiences as they each learn to adapt to new ways of being in the world, whether it’s Jade’s decision to wear a hijab on camera, or Summer’s explorations of her own sexuality. Can she be sexual and religious? Can she be hot in a hijab? There are new boundaries for Summer to test, as any teen does at this age.

“Jinn” is a familiar story, told in a cultural context rarely depicted on film, and Mu’min’s approach is so lyrical and empathetic that it feels completely fresh and new. It’s a remarkable film with sensitive and stirring turns by Renee and Missick in the mother-daughter roles.

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‘Jinn’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Playing: Starts Nov. 16, Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; also on VOD

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