It's still an important film, but it lacks the badly needed final gut-punch.
Although born in the 1970s, Miral (Pinto) traces her life back to Israel's partition in 1948, when the young Hind (Abbass) turned her father's home into an orphanage for Palestinian refugees. Three decades later, Miral becomes a student in Hind's school when her father (Siddig) places her there after the death of her mother (Al Massri). Later as a teen, Miral's relationship with her father and Hind are strained when she develops a crush on handsome freedom fighter Hani (Metwally). And she begins to realise that the path to peace is rather complex.
Miral's name comes from a red flower. "It grows on the side of the road," she says. "You've probably seen millions of them." So this film is, rather unsubtly, positioned as a common story of life over the first 50 years of Israel's nationhood, during which conditions are increasingly oppressive for the Palestinian minority. The big question is whether Palestine should be an independent nation or whether everyone can live in peace in a united country.
But as Miral grows up, she realises that both options are merely ideals.
Schnabel tells this strong tale from a deeply human angle, letting the politics emerge organically in conversations. And for the film's first two-thirds, there isn't a false moment, as the astute handheld cinematography by Eric Gautier captures the offhanded, honest performances of the whole cast, anchored by a terrific turn from Pinto. And solid cameos by Redgrave and Dafoe give us points of interest along the way.
Then, just after the film's most promising sequence in which Miral is surprised that she has befriended a Jewish woman (Stella Schnabel), the story abruptly starts wrapping itself up. Scenes feel rushed when they need to let us absorb the situation, important plot points flit by almost unobserved and a couple of moments are awkwardly directed and played. This doesn't diminish the essential vitality of Jebreal's story, but it does leave us unmoved by it.
Run time: 112 mins
In Theaters: Friday 3rd September 2010
Box Office USA: $0.4M
Box Office Worldwide: $852.3 thousand
Distributed by: The Weinstein Company
Production compaines: Eran Riklis Productions Ltd., Pathe
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 17%
Fresh: 11 Rotten: 52
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Julian Schnabel
Producer: Jon Kilik
Screenwriter: Rula Jebreal