It’s always the father-son stories that get me. Bicycle Thieves, This Boy’s Life and The Pursuit of Happyness, to name a few. There are so many more. There is just something about them, and the ones I named are at the top of the list, if you know what I mean. Even the ones that are a little shoddy at times generate a lot of emotions in me, especially if they feature a conflict between a father and a son. Netflix’s Crypto Boy has a nice template for its story to work. The beats are there, and the film is shot very well.
Crypto Boy‘s plot revolves around Omar and Amir. There is a bit in the names as well. Amir, the only son of the widower Omar, has great ambition in him, not just to earn money but to ‘generate wealth’, a catchphrase heard at a convention related to cryptocurrency. The 18-year-old was taken in by Roy, the main speaker and founder of ‘Crypcore Capital’, a cryptocurrency endeavor. He came as a beacon of hope in Amir’s life, who didn’t want to become like his father. Omar isn’t a bad man. He may have a problem with his temper, but overall, he is a man who worked hard and opened his own Mexican restaurant, although he himself immigrated from Egypt. Omar means ‘long lived’ and Amir means the ‘wealthy prince’. Omar was working himself to death to save his shop and pay the rent, while Amir was broke, working as the delivery boy for his father. Roy worked his charm on Amir precisely because he too had a tale to tell. His father, according to him, had worked for 10 years to buy a Mercedes, and he was too jaded to drive it. What happened next? He rammed his Mercedes into a truck. Amir was sick of selling fake beard oil to kids and saw a way out of his drudgery, but was Roy the right man for Amir to emulate and grow wealthy?
The times we are living in are quite unusual when it comes to money. There are slogans all around that money cannot buy happiness, but our faith in such mottos dwindles when we see someone swirling their fancy car around. Perhaps the wise know what the real value of money is in our lives. I don’t know much about cryptocurrency, and hence some parts of the movie went over my head. But I didn’t know anything about baseball either when I saw Moneyball, but I got the emotion of the film. In a somewhat similar fashion, I understood the core emotion here, and it works. Well, the film may not be as good as Moneyball, but it holds its own.
Films on Netflix are not too visually unique, it seems. They are on a spree to mass-produce films that look and feel similar. The green-bluish palette and the similar cinematography sometimes make me feel as if I have seen the film before. Crypto Boy also has that same palette, and the camera never stays still. It doesn’t move a lot though, holds its position, and tries to give us the impression that we are one of the characters in Amir and Omar’s story. This fidgeting camerawork is tiring to see after a while. The hovering effect produced as a result is unable to really say what a shot is about. We get the generic look away from the camera, and the film language doesn’t say anything else other than what we can decipher right off the bat.
At that level, Crypto Boy is a simple film. The relationship between Omar and Amir is complex, but it’s too predictable. The boy doesn’t believe in hard work, and the father won’t believe in his son for a change. As a character, much of the flamboyance is with Roy, the cryptocurrency entrepreneur. And it has to be said, after Justin Timberlake’s turn as an entrepreneur in The Social Network, Roy is the most believable. I will have to mention the casting department here, which must be praised for bringing Minne Koole to play Roy. There is something about his eyes that fits the character perfectly. The rest of the casting is also spot on. Shahine El-Hamus as Amir, wearing that silly mustache during most of the film, seems like a good fit for the role. There were some moments of absolute dread in this film that were too complex for Shahine to portray. Playing Omar, Sabri Saad El-Hamus is pitch perfect in most scenes.
The performances by the actors create the feeling of an ensemble case, with many characters remaining in the frame for many scenes, but the story focused primarily on the father-son duo. There were hints of being overly sentimental in some scenes that could have backfired, but the action was pulled back. The immigrant family in a strange place, with the head of the family working himself to death to make ends meet, is a powerful image. Sabri’s face has a lot of stories carved on it, and through the eyes, we truly see the trouble Omar would have gone through. The immigrant angle wasn’t explored much, but through some scenes, the point got across that life is never easy for someone who has left their homeland.
I don’t know if the director Shady El-Hamus is related to the actors playing the father-son duo in the film, but he definitely got a good performance out of them, given it is harder to direct family members sometimes. Shady seems to be obsessed with wealth. His previous film was titled Forever Rich, but I bet Crypto Boy was more personal. Money can relieve us of so many of our problems, but many youngsters get on the wrong track of things too easily. Shady seems to know a thing or two about such a life, which is why this film feels real, except in the fight scenes. With decent performances, a predictable but emotional plot, and a perfect run time of 100 minutes, Crypto Boy speaks a lot about the current generation’s fascination with wealth and, more importantly, the new ways of generating it quickly. Watch it if, like me, you are a sucker for good ‘father-son’ stories.