Jasmine Road Parent Guide
A beautifully filmed, poignant story about the common humanity that binds us all together.
Parent Movie Review
Jasmine Road opens in the fictitious Canadian town of Red River, settled in the foothills of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Rancher Mac Bagley (Greg Ellwand) has a fulfilling life, caring for his horses, sharing a rich companionship with his wife (Toni Ellwand), and hanging out with the guys at the local coffee shop as they complain about politics and the government’s refugee policy. Then Mac’s wife dies, and his grief leaves him completely unmoored.
Half a world away, Syrian refugee Layla (Aixa Kay) is waiting anxiously in a UN camp for word of her missing husband. When she’s told that her remaining family – 12 year old daughter, Heba (Melody Mokhtari), and brother, Salem (Ahmed Muslimani) – have been accepted for admission to Canada, she’s reluctant to leave without her husband. But knowing that this is too good a chance to pass up, the entire family leaves for Canada, arriving in the city of Calgary, where the Western prairies meet the Canadian Rockies. It’s about as far from the bombed out remnants of Aleppo as you can imagine.
As the family settles into a temporary resettlement center, Heba goes to school and connects with her teacher, Loretta (Caitlyn Sponheimer), who happens to be Mac’s daughter, and who empathizes with the Syrians’ plight, Worried about her father’s apathy and isolation, she invites Heba’s family to the ranch for a visit and then offers a home on their land. Having a house and making a home are two different things and it’s going to take some time for these three to settle in, especially when not all of their neighbors are welcoming…
Despite its good intentions, Jasmine Road suffers from a few flaws. It’s too long and could have used tighter editing. The magical realism elements are touch and go and might or might not appeal to you. The biggest problem with the movie is that the plot’s developments sometimes feel forced, not organic, as the screenwriter tries to push his characters to follow a predetermined arc, whether or not it feels true to life.
Luckily, the movie has more than enough positive elements to compensate for its weaknesses. Content issues are within the PG-13 range with moderate swearing, off-screen violence, and non-explicit sexual content. The characters are relatable and the acting is beautifully understated. Greg Ellwand is suitably restrained as the laconic Mac and Ahmed Muslimani takes the prize for his portrayal as Salem – being a gay Muslim man is dangerous almost anywhere, but particularly so in a highly conservative rural area. His weariness, resignation, and grief are completely believable. Best of all, the scenery is jaw-droppingly beautiful and the stunning vistas alone are worth your time.
The highlight of Jasmine Road is its overarching message of tolerance, acceptance, and shared human experience. The film makes it clear that despite our cultural differences, we are all human and share the experience of loss and pain. We find joy and meaning in our families and w also find satisfaction in mastering skills and sharing our work with others. I’ve lived in both Southern Alberta and the Middle East and can attest to the vast differences between the cultures. What this lovely little movie shows is that people of good will can bridge that gap with kindness, empathy, openness, and a little bit of effort. This message makes the movie eminently suitable for teens and adults who want to be inspired or uplifted by simple goodness.Directed by Warren Sulatycky. Starring Caitlyn Sponheimer, Jill Maria Robinson, and Ryan Northcott. Running time: 96 minutes. Theatrical release September 27, 2020. Updated October 1, 2020
Watch the trailer for Jasmine Road
Rating & Content Info
Violence: There are scenes of a bombed out city. A person remembers hearing bombs fall. A suicide takes place off screen. A person is informed about the death of a family member. A house is vandalized and the residents hide in the closet. Hateful words are spray painted on a house and barn. A character threatens a man with a pool cue. A police officer throws a man against the side of a truck.
Sexual Content: A character dreams about embracing a spouse in their bed. A character imagines being kissed by a spouse in bed. A husband and wife kiss. Two gay men kiss. There is brief mention of a man’s homosexuality. A man is seen in his underwear.
Profanity: There are approximately a dozen curse words in the movie, including four scatological expressions, three terms of deity and assorted minor swear words.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters drink what is presumably alcohol in a bar. A man is shown surrounded by empty beer cans; he’s presumed to be passed out.
Page last updated October 1, 2020
Jasmine Road Parents' Guide
With a population of 39 million (less than the state of California), Canada has taken in over 50,000 Syrian refugees. For more information about Canada’s refugee policies and its resettlement of Syrians, you can read these articles.
The New York Times. Canadians Adopted Refugee Families for a Year. Then Came “Month 13”.
Canadians for Syria. Canada’s Response
Canada.ca. Sponsor a refugee
Statistics Canada. Study: Syrian refugees who resettles in Canada in 2015 and 2016
The New York Times: Thank God for Canada!
What is your government’s policy about accepting refugees? Do you agree or not?
Seeing refugees launch businesses in their new homes isn’t the stuff of fiction. Here are some real life stories of successful refugees. (Keep an eye out for Aleppo Soap, which was featured in the film.)
The Globe and Mail. “It put a big mission on our shoulders”
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Teens and tweens will appreciate a fictional story of a young Syrian refugee. N H Senzai’s Escape from Aleppo tells the tale of Nadia, a 14 year old who is separated from her parents in the chaos of the Syrian civil war and has to make her own way to safety.
To help young children understand the challenges faced by refugees, turn to Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey. Author Margriet Ruurs has created a story of a family fleeing war-ravaged Syria for freedom in Europe. The picture book is illustrated with pictures by Syrian stone artist Nizar Ali Badr.
Abu Bakr al Rabeeah, with the help of Winnie Yeung, recounts his experience as a Syrian refugee in Canada in Homes: A Refugee Story.
For more first person accounts of the Syrian Civil War, you can read Wendy Pearlman’s We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled.
Rania Abouzeid shares the experiences of four Syrians in No Turning Back: Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria.
If you’re struggling to understand the causes of the war in Syria, you can try reading Nikolaos Van Dam’s Destroying a Nation: The Civil War in Syria. The author was Netherland’s Special Envoy to Syria and had a close up view of the country’s devolution into war.
For a detailed examination of Canada’s Syrian refugee resettlement policy, you can read A National Project: Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Canada, edited by Leah K Hamilton and Luisa Veronis.
Related home video titles:
The Good Lie is based on the true story of three Sudanese refugees who wind up in the USA. But there should have been a fourth with them and his absence haunts them…
Darfur Now is a documentary about conditions in Sudan that have led millions of people to leave their homes as refugees in search of safety.
One of the largest movements of refugees in history took place when India was divided to form Pakistan in 1947. This story is told in Viceroy’s House.