Ambition is one thing, but modelling your feature debut on Robert Altman's complex, masterful Short Cuts is asking for trouble. Side Streets' central conceit is good, following five sets of immigrant characters, scattered across New York's five boroughs, through the hottest day of the year. Writer-director Tony Gerber (himself a Romanian-Jewish Noo Yawker) shows a real love of the city, evoking a neat sense of its geographical and ethnic diversity. He also finds a rich vein of tragi-comedy in the aspirations of his struggling characters.
But Gerber is no Altman, and the result is a seriously uneven, erratically paced affair, cutting uneasily between the tenuously linked stories. But when it's good it's great, and in Shashi Kapoor's poignant comic turn as a faded Indian film star, this intelligent yet flawed drama brushes with brilliance.