By Ray Savaya | Drama
A couple questions their identity after having their firstborn child.

A first-time father rushes to a hospital in the middle of the night. Sam has been delayed on a business flight and missed the birth of his newborn son. But he and his wife, Linda, are overjoyed with the new addition to their family.

But their happiness shifts as the question of what to name him comes up. The discussion unearths the many layers of identity and family legacy that they have to navigate, causing the couple to question their own identities and that of their son’s.

Writer-director Ray Savaya’s dramatic short is a compact, powerfully focused snapshot of a husband and wife negotiating their future as their child enters the picture. Pivoting upon the decision of what to name their new baby, they have to decide if their child will take the father’s Middle Eastern name, as per family tradition — something that may affect the freedom and ease with which he navigates the world as he grows up.

Essentially a fraught conversation in real-time, the film is shot with a range of close-ups, which allows viewers to absorb the emotional intricacies of the dialogue and performances. This intimate style, along with quick editing, adds a level of claustrophobia and anxiousness as the tension rises. The writing is concise, economical and intelligently constructed, folding in both the emotional reality of a new child but also the burdens of new considerations.

These are brought to the fore by the dramatic circumstances that set up the film’s narrative: Sam was delayed on the flight to join his wife because he was held up in security, due to suspicions about his name and background. Though his wife is understanding, Sam enters the story carrying a significant emotional weight, which affects his feelings about carrying on the family name and tradition.

Actors Samy Osman and Dalal Badr bring to life the couple’s dynamic and the story’s ideas and themes with precision and restraint. Osman in particular underscores the lifelong weight of having to live in the world with these omnipresent layers of suspicion and hostility. Even as a new parent, he doesn’t want his son to navigate this burden. The act of trying to get his wife to understand his perspective also brings this POV to life for the audience — and underscores just how lifelong and burdensome prejudice can be.

“Newborn” clearly begins from a place of tenderness, and its themes are underscored by the presence of the unnamed titular character, so new and innocent in the world. The price of Sam’s heritage has weighed on him all his life, coming to a head when he contemplates what his son will experience, too.

With the presence of father and son, viewers have to confront both the beginning of a human’s journey, just how early the baby may experience prejudice and, through the father, the incremental cost of such a weight. It brings to life just what it means to exist in this cycle, affecting multiple generations from choices and situations that should be solely about joy, celebration and wonder at the circle of life.

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