It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Man Push Cart" was filmed in Manhattan by an American born in Iran and an American born in Pakistan, and embodies the very soul of Italian neo-realism. Free of contrived melodrama and phony suspense, it ennobles the hard work by which its hero earns his daily bread. He owns a stainless steel bagel wagon, which he pushes through the lonely pre-dawn streets. He sells bagels and sweet rolls and juice and coffee and many customers call him by his first name although they would never think to ask his last one.
The character, named Ahmad (Ahmad Razui), has had a life before this, but the pushcart now defines the parameters of his existence. He was a Pakistani rock star, although how that career ended and he came to New York to push a cart (which would be a subject of a more conventional film) is barely suggested. Ahmad's wife is dead, his in-laws will not allow him to see his son, and maybe he originally came to America to seek the child. Now he sells bagels.
We see the world he inhabits outside the cart. He knows the other nearby vendors, including a Hispanic woman at a magazine stand. Romance would be a possibility, except that romance is not a possibility in Ahmad's life. It is too filled with the making of a living. Like so many Americans who work low-wage jobs, sometimes two or even three of them, his work essentially subsidizes his ability to keep on working.
Ramin Bahrani, the writer-director, shot his film on a shoestring, in less than three weeks. He often used a concealed camera, shooting what was really happening. There's a scene of unforced spontaneity when Ahmad offers to sell some bootleg videos. The two guys he pitches say they know where they can get bootlegs, two for eight bucks, in Brooklyn. The two guys did not know they were in a movie.