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An eviction threat tests family ties in ‘Home in You’

You would think so during the beautiful dinner scene in the opening minutes At home in you (Halva Halva in Swedish) is simply a sitcom about a loving Lebanese family in a suburb of Stockholm. But then writers and creators Alexander Abdallah and Mustafa Al-Mashhadani pull the rug out from under them: the Haddad family is about to double their rent or face eviction, and no one has any idea what to do about it.
This dilemma is the focus of this drama series, which vividly portrays the trials and tribulations of immigrant life. While Sweden is the setting of the series, At home in you makes astute observations about the broader dynamics of immigrants trying to carve out lives in any wealthy, Western country. And while it tackles serious topics, it makes sure to never take itself too seriously, pulling back the curtain on the Haddad family’s optimistic outlook with thoughtful touches of humor.
A man hugs a woman with a sad expression.

Ahmed (Isa Aouifia) and Nour (Helen Al-Janabi).

More than six episodes, At home in you reflects with feeling and pathos on the impact this deportation has on the family. Of course, there is the obvious financial dimension: with a small catering company, mother Nour (Helen Al-Janabi) obviously cannot absorb the rent increase. Daughter Jamila (Jenna Chaaraoui) has temporary work, but in the ultimate outrage she ends up helping the very company that is driving her family away. But the deportation also reveals fault lines within the family: Nour and father Ahmed (Isa Aouifia) may be the breadwinners of the family, but they are also dependent on their children. Growing up in Stockholm, teenagers Jamila and Amin (Matteus Gezer) end up having to give up parts of their own childhood to help their parents with things like filling out long-winded housing assistance forms – the kind of task likely familiar to many immigrant children of the second generation, regardless of whether they are in Sweden, Australia or abroad.
Faced with so many challenges, it is no wonder that the various Haddad family members are beginning to question what their role is in Sweden. At home in you approaches these feelings with tact. The Haddad family is not really dealing with the aggressive xenophobia that would provide an easy answer to a question like “am I welcome here?” Instead, they are subjected to a parade of minor indignities. These range from the kind-enough man who denies Jamila and her friends entry to a party, on the basis of unspoken but subtly implied racism, to the corporate drone who announces the family’s exorbitant rent increase in a cheery but ultimately soulless manner.
There’s a clear sense that the reason for the eviction is to gentrify the neighborhood and bring in more “desirable” Swedish families — but since no one explicitly states that, the Haddads are left to speculate as to why they’re facing this misfortune.
Two teenage girls lean on a fence, talking.

Jamila (Jenna Chaaraouua) with a friend after their families receive news of a huge rent increase. Credit: Viaplay

But despite the heaviness of the main story, At home in you does not wallow in doom and gloom. While there are downsides to living in Sweden, there are also upsides: the summer greenery of the Haddads’ fictional Stockholm suburb of Smedsby is lush and inviting. Then there is their wonderful neighbor, Ing-Marie, who helps the family with the confusing bureaucracy, who teaches the parents to tango and who is willing to take to the streets in protest against the eviction.
A teenage boy in a striped tracksuit stares into the distance.

Amin (Matthew Gezer). Credit: Viaplay

And the Haddad family – perhaps with the exception of Amin, who is concerned about the stress of deportation – can also remain optimistic. From Ahmed’s gentle jokes about the Swedish love of paperwork to the archetypal teenage boy Amin brutally teaching Ing-Marie how to say “prostitute” in Arabic, there are plenty of heartfelt moments to offset the nightmarish housing debacle. Combine that with an upbeat soundtrack of pop and hip-hop, and it’s a light-hearted, delightful series, even with the eviction drama at its center.
This balance of humor and drama encapsulates the show’s larger view of life: there are highs and many lows, and many gray areas; it is never entirely clear whether the family feels welcome – or is welcome – in Sweden. And that’s fine: The Haddads can live without that clear answer, by tolerating that ambiguity and focusing their energy on finding joy in family and community. At home in you is not a show that asks, “is Sweden good or bad for immigrants?”, but rather, “what are the joys and difficulties of Lebanese life in Sweden?”

Home in You is now streaming on SBS On Demand.

Miniature of Home in you
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