Analysis of Mo

Screenplay Rating:


Executive Summary

The screenplay effectively establishes the setting and time period, creates tension and fear in the initial setting of Iraq, and explores the conflicts and challenges faced by the characters. The dialogue is engaging and showcases the characters' personalities and relationships. However, there is room for improvement in terms of visual storytelling, smoother transitions between scenes, and further development of conflicts and resolutions. The screenplay could benefit from providing clearer stakes and urgency, including more details about the Gulf War, and resolving conflicts more definitively. Overall, the narrative is compelling and engaging, with notable moments of humor and depth in exploring cultural and religious differences.

  • The scene effectively establishes the setting and time period through visual and dialogue cues. (Scene 1)
  • The scene effectively creates tension and fear in the initial setting of Iraq during the war. (Scene 2)
  • The scene effectively establishes the conflict of Mo being fired from his job due to an ICE raid at their other location. (Scene 3)
  • The scene effectively establishes the cluttered and loud environment of Mo's family condo, which adds to the overall tone and atmosphere of the scene. (Scene 4)
  • The dialogue is witty and engaging, showcasing the characters' personalities and relationships. (Scene 5)
Areas of Improvement
  • The scene could benefit from more specific and vivid descriptions of the characters' actions and emotions to enhance the visual storytelling. (Scene 1)
  • The transition from the chaotic scene in Iraq to present-day Houston could be smoother and more clearly established. (Scene 2)
  • The scene could benefit from more visual elements or actions to enhance the overall impact. (Scene 3)
  • The transition between Mo and Maria discussing Mo's mother and religion and Mo talking to his family on FaceTime feels abrupt and could be smoother. (Scene 4)
  • The transition between Mo agreeing to get cat food for Sameer and joining Aba and Nazeer at the hookah lounge feels abrupt and could be smoother. (Scene 5)
  • A clearer sense of the stakes and urgency of the situation could be established. (Scene 1)
  • More details about the Gulf War and its impact on the characters' lives could be included to provide context and depth. (Scene 1)
  • The resolution of the conflict between Mo and Abood Rahman is not clear, leaving the audience uncertain about Mo's future. (Scene 3)
  • The conflict between Mo and Maria regarding Mo's mother's religious beliefs could be further developed and explored to add more depth to their relationship. (Scene 4)
  • The conflict between Mo and Nazeer regarding Mo's desire to start selling bootlegs again could be further developed and resolved. (Scene 5)
  • The use of Mo's love for basketball and his role as the announcer adds a touch of humor and personality to the scene. (Scene 1)
  • The use of Mo faking crying to distract the Burly Soldier is a clever and unexpected tactic. (Scene 2)
  • The use of Mo's Ninja Turtles toy as a distraction is a creative and memorable moment. (Scene 2)
  • The repaired Walkman symbolizes Mustafa's love and support for Mo, highlighting their bond. (Scene 1)
  • The scene touches on themes of cultural and religious differences, family dynamics, and the challenges of navigating relationships. (Scene 4)
Summary During the Gulf War in 1991, Yusra Najjar and her family flee Kuwait and encounter a commotion at an Iraqi checkpoint where Yusra uses her son, Mo's fake crying skills to distract the soldiers. Mo is then fired from his job, which causes him to question his future and become a resourceful immigrant by selling counterfeit designer products. Throughout the movie, Mo faces political discussions and cultural differences while dealing with family dynamics and trying to make a living.

Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique The plot/story of the screenplay has some strong elements, such as the tense and bittersweet tone in the first scene and the tense and ominous tone in the last scene. The conflicts and resolutions in the second and third scenes provide good tension and resolution. However, there are some areas that could be improved. The overall story lacks a clear central conflict or goal for the protagonist, which can make it feel disjointed. Additionally, some scenes lack significant visual elements or actions, which can make them less engaging. The dialogue is generally effective in conveying the emotions and conflicts, but there could be more depth and complexity to the characters' interactions. Overall, the plot/story has potential but could benefit from further development and refinement.
Suggestions: 1. Establish a clear central conflict or goal for the protagonist to provide a stronger narrative focus. This could be related to Mo's desire to start selling bootlegs again or his court date for asylum. 2. Add more significant visual elements or actions to scenes that lack them to enhance the visual storytelling. 3. Develop the characters' interactions and dialogue to add more depth and complexity. This could involve exploring their motivations, desires, and conflicts in greater detail. 4. Consider tightening the overall structure of the screenplay to ensure a more cohesive and engaging narrative flow.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:


Mo is a determined and resilient undocumented immigrant who is hopeful for asylum. He is frustrated by the unfairness of his job loss and uncertain about his future. He is young, passionate about basketball, and has a playful and humorous personality. Mo is also torn between his Mexican girlfriend and his Muslim family. He struggles to balance his personal aspirations with his family responsibilities, but is resourceful and ambitious, using his sales skills to make a living.


Maria is a compassionate and empathetic individual with a deep desire to understand and learn about other cultures and religions. She is politically engaged and has a strong sense of justice which drives her to voice her concerns about the legality of Mo's business. She is fiercely loyal to Mo and cares deeply about his well-being.

Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Mo Mo's character arc is centered around his journey towards acceptance and understanding of his circumstances. Initially frustrated and uncertain about his future, Mo is determined to make the best of the opportunities available to him. He faces conflicts around his relationships and family responsibilities, but ultimately learns to embrace his identity as a determined and resourceful immigrant. Mo becomes even more driven by his ambition and willingness to take risks, ultimately achieving his goals and providing for his family. The character arc outlined for Mo appears to be somewhat predictable and generic, lacking in specific details or unique challenges. Additionally, while Mo's various conflicts provide some depth to his character, they don't necessarily drive the story forward in a compelling way. As a result, his arc may feel somewhat stagnant or formulaic.
To strengthen Mo's character arc, consider introducing more complex conflicts or obstacles that really challenge his identity and force him to make tough decisions. Additionally, try to weave his personal struggles more directly into the larger plot, ensuring that each of his choices has real consequences on the story's trajectory. By doing so, Mo's arc could become more engaging and dynamic, capturing the attention and interest of audiences throughout the film.
Maria Throughout the movie, Maria's character arc revolves around her growing sense of concern and worry for Mo's safety and the consequences of his illegal business. She starts off as a supportive and understanding girlfriend but as she learns more about Mo's business, she becomes increasingly concerned about the risks he is taking. Her loyalty towards Mo is tested as she confronts him and tries to convince him to change his ways. Ultimately, Maria realizes that she cannot change Mo's decisions and is forced to make a difficult decision about their relationship. The character arc for Maria is well written, but it could benefit from more complexity and nuance. While her growing concern for Mo's safety is an important part of her arc, there could be more exploration into how this impacts her personal values and beliefs. Additionally, her decision at the end of the movie feels somewhat abrupt and could benefit from more build-up and emotional weight.
To improve Maria's character arc, consider delving further into her personal values and how they clash with Mo's business. Show how her loyalty to Mo is not just a simple matter of love, but is also tied to her political and moral convictions. Additionally, give more weight to her decision at the end of the movie by building up to it with more emotional tension and stakes.

Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
Family and ResponsibilityThe theme of family and responsibility is present throughout the screenplay. It is highlighted in the first scene when Mustafa reminds Mo of his responsibility to the family before they leave for Houston. It is also evident in the scene where Mo argues with Abood about his firing and emphasizes that he has a court date for asylum coming up. The theme is further explored in Mo's relationship with his siblings and his mother, as well as his desire to provide for them.The theme of family and responsibility explores the obligations and duties that individuals have towards their family members. It delves into the sacrifices one makes for their loved ones and the sense of duty that drives their actions.
Identity and BelongingThe theme of identity and belonging is explored in various scenes of the screenplay. It is evident in the scene where Mo and Maria discuss Mo's mother and religion, highlighting the clash between Mo's cultural identity and his personal beliefs. The theme is also present in Mo's struggle to find his place in present-day Houston, as he navigates his job loss, his relationship with Maria, and his involvement in illegal activities.The theme of identity and belonging delves into the search for one's true self and the desire to find a place where one feels accepted and understood. It explores the conflicts and challenges that arise when individuals are torn between different cultural, social, or personal identities.
Survival and AdaptationThe theme of survival and adaptation is prominent in the screenplay. It is depicted in the scene where Yusra packs cash into various hiding places while the family prepares to leave their home in Kuwait. The theme is further explored in Mo's journey from Iraq to present-day Houston, where he faces challenges such as theft, job loss, and involvement in illegal activities. Mo's ability to adapt and survive in different environments becomes a central aspect of his character.The theme of survival and adaptation explores the resilience and resourcefulness of individuals in the face of adversity. It delves into their ability to navigate difficult circumstances, make necessary adjustments, and find ways to overcome challenges in order to survive.
Loss and UncertaintyThe theme of loss and uncertainty is present throughout the screenplay. It is depicted in the scene where Mo boards the bus to Houston, looking back at his home with uncertainty. The theme is further explored in Mo's journey in present-day Houston, where he experiences job loss, uncertain legal status, and strained relationships. The sense of loss and uncertainty becomes a recurring motif in his life.The theme of loss and uncertainty delves into the emotional turmoil and instability that individuals face when they encounter loss or find themselves in uncertain situations. It explores the feelings of grief, confusion, and anxiety that arise when one's life is marked by unpredictability and the absence of stability.
Cultural Clash and AssimilationThe theme of cultural clash and assimilation is explored in various scenes of the screenplay. It is evident in the scene where Mo and Maria discuss Mo's mother and religion, highlighting the clash between different cultural beliefs and practices. The theme is also present in Mo's journey from Iraq to present-day Houston, as he navigates the challenges of assimilating into a new culture while holding onto his own identity.The theme of cultural clash and assimilation delves into the conflicts and challenges that arise when individuals from different cultural backgrounds interact or when individuals try to adapt to a new culture. It explores the tensions, misunderstandings, and compromises that occur as individuals navigate the complexities of cultural integration and preservation of their own cultural identity.

Screenwriting Resources on Themes


Site Description
Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
Coverfly Improving your Screenplay's theme
John August Writing from Theme

YouTube Videos

Title Description
Story, Plot, Genre, Theme - Screenwriting Basics Screenwriting basics - beginner video
What is theme Discussion on ways to layer theme into a screenplay.
Thematic Mistakes You're Making in Your Script Common Theme mistakes and Philosophical Conflicts

Goals and Philosophical Conflict
internal Goals The protagonist's internal goals evolve from a need for security and fear of the unknown to a desire for independence and financial stability.
External Goals The protagonist's external goals evolve from immediate circumstances and challenges to a need for employment and financial stability.
Philosophical Conflict The overarching philosophical conflict revolves around the protagonist's struggle between family and personal desires, as well as the clash between cultural traditions and individual aspirations.

Character Development Contribution: The protagonist's evolving internal and external goals reflect his growth and transformation as he navigates challenges and confronts his fears. They push him to confront his beliefs and values, leading to a deeper understanding of himself and his place in the world.

Narrative Structure Contribution: The protagonist's evolving goals provide a clear throughline for the narrative, driving the plot forward and creating a sense of progression. They create tension and conflict, leading to dramatic moments and plot twists that propel the story.

Thematic Depth Contribution: The protagonist's goals and the philosophical conflicts they embody contribute to the thematic depth of the screenplay by exploring themes of family, sacrifice, identity, cultural clashes, and the pursuit of dreams. They raise questions about the nature of responsibility, the impact of societal systems, and the moral dilemmas faced by individuals in challenging circumstances.

Screenwriting Resources on Goals and Philosophical Conflict


Site Description
Creative Screenwriting How Important Is A Character’s Goal?
Studio Binder What is Conflict in a Story? A Quick Reminder of the Purpose of Conflict

YouTube Videos

Title Description
How I Build a Story's Philosophical Conflict How do you build philosophical conflict into your story? Where do you start? And how do you develop it into your characters and their external actions. Today I’m going to break this all down and make it fully clear in this episode.
Endings: The Good, the Bad, and the Insanely Great By Michael Arndt: I put this lecture together in 2006, when I started work at Pixar on Toy Story 3. It looks at how to write an "insanely great" ending, using Star Wars, The Graduate, and Little Miss Sunshine as examples. 90 minutes
Tips for Writing Effective Character Goals By Jessica Brody (Save the Cat!): Writing character goals is one of the most important jobs of any novelist. But are your character's goals...mushy?