Do you want to see a movie about a taxi driver who learns valuable lessons in life? Probably not. Which means you’re in luck. Because director Joseph Daniel (in his film debut) doesn’t do things by the numbers. Instead, he builds his movie from the inside out. Character comes first. Talal Jurdi, who plays our main character, is the best friend a comedy movie can have. The guy’s a treat to watch. He plays Youssef, the village boy who decides to give the big city a chance by working as a cab driver. “I’m gonna be the best taxi driver in Beirut” he says at some point. But before that, the movie hops back and forth in time through different time periods. First, we meet Youssef as a young boy growing up in his small village. Then we see him years later, almost engaged, before his girlfriend ditches him for another guy. I was captivated during those early scenes, and from then on, the movie offers a completely satisfying experience, even when I knew that the story had nowhere else to go. Talal Jurdi has established his bona fides in a variety of films and television shows, but he’s never had a showcase quite like this before, a starring role that offers him a character with many colors and facets to explore. He’s one tough taxi driver, and we believe it, but there are many feelings he suppresses. Karina Logue displays easygoing charm as his only friend in the city, whom he keeps at arm’s length. Badih Abou Chakra, Hiam ABou Chedid and the late Mahmoud Mabsout bring solidity to their supporting roles. But it’s Firas Barakat who earns special praise as a young Youssef. What does it all mean you might wonder? It’s not how the plot plays out that counts, it’s how Daniel Joseph keeps it real. Which means he takes his time, at first letting us feel as lost and ungrounded as Youssef himself.
There’s a lot of fun waiting at “Taxi Ballad”, but it’s the feelings that run through every scene that’ll make you glad you came. It doesn’t break new ground, nor does it pretend to…but it does offer a completely satisfying experience, which is more than many slick Hollywood movies can claim so far this year. I suggest you give it a chance.