Starring: Amin Nawabi

Director: Jonas Poher Rasmussen

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Disturbing Corruption and Poor Living Conditions

Release Date: December 3, 2021 (Theaters)

In the days leading up to my viewing of Flee, it was always the Red Hot Chili Peppers that popped into my head whenever I said the title to myself. But of course, this movie has nothing to do with a certain rock ‘n’ roll bassist, so this information is kind of irrelevant, but I like my readers to know where my mind was at when they’re reading my reviews. And Flee had that mind captivated to the point that Flea no longer occupied my headspace pretty much immediately.

Instead, this Flee refers to the act of fleeing, which a man by the name of Amin Nawabi has had to do quite a bit over the course of his life. He’s an Afghan living in Denmark by way of Russia, with a few other bumpy stops along the way. We meet him at a point in his life when he’s finally able to stay in place much more than in his younger on-the-run days. This stability has helped him to open up and tell his story to his friend Jonas Poher Rasmussen, who went ahead and directed this film. Most of Amin’s journey was unrecorded at the time (save for a few fortuitous pieces of security footage), so Rasmussen resorts to animating the tale along with a soundtrack of Amin recounting his memories. The end result is basically a vibrant and heart-tugging artistic therapy session.

Like countless other refugees, Amin and his family are just trying to escape the threat of violence in their homeland. And then like just about everyone else in post-Soviet Russia, they have to make their way through the muck of chaos and corruption (which is of course more suffocating for outsiders). And on top of all that, Amin is coming to terms with his queer identity after growing up in a country that doesn’t even have a word for “gay.”

But Flee is far from an unrelenting horror show. There are moments of sheer joy, particularly through Amin’s pop culture touchstones. He’s enamored with a certain musclebound Belgian action star, and whenever he gets to watch some kickboxing on TV, it’s fully infectious. There are also a couple of lovely music-fueled bookending scenes, as a young Amin listens to a-ha’s “Take on Me” on his Walkman, while towards the end his first trip to a gay club is soundtracked by Daft Punk’s “Veridis Quo.” He made it through, I’m glad I got to hear his story, and I bet you will be, too.

Flee is Recommended If You Like: 80s synth pop, Queer acceptance, Jean-Claude Van Damme

Grade: 4 out of 5 Fake Passports