Omar Movie Review
As in his Golden Globe-winning 2005 drama Paradise Now, Israeli filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad takes a complex, personal approach to a touchy political-religious situation in this Palestinian love story. It's not always an easy film to watch, but the characters are likeable, simply because they're so recognisably authentic, even if the setting and their actions may be unfamiliar.
In a village bisected by the 8-metre tall Israel-Palestine wall, Omar (Adam Bakri) is a young Palestinian guy trying to have a normal life. He's in love with Nadia (Leem Lubany), sister of his best pal Tarek (Iyad Hoorani), but can't get up the nerve to ask for her hand. He's also got competition from their friend Amjad (Samer Bisharat). But things take a very dark turn when the three guys go out one evening to shoot a random Israeli soldier, out of frustration over years of brutal treatment at the hands of the Israeli security forces. Arrested and tortured, Omar is given an impossible choice by Israeli Agent Rami (Waleed F. Zuaiter). And now all of Omar's hopes for the future seem to be in jeopardy.
Abu-Assad tells this story with remarkable honesty, never shying away from either small joys or painful realities. The picture is almost of Israel as a schoolyard bully using brute force to push around the scrawnier Palestine, who's too scrappy to give up without a fight. In this setting, the sense of life as an oppressed minority is overpowering to watch. And Abu-Assad also shows the frustration of Israelis whose own personal lives have been disrupted (although not to remotely the same degree).
There doesn't seem to be any acting going on at all. Each of the performers creates a fully rounded character with a sense of humour, personal issues and their own hopes and fears. Bakri's Omar is never depicted as innocent, but he's clearly naive to dream that he can have a normal life with Nadia. And it's impossible not to sympathise with him right to the heart-stopping final shot. Intriguingly, Abu-Assad still manages to keep a glimmer of hope alive, and perhaps films like this can help break down what looks like a dead-end situation.