›› Out in the Dark
a film by Michael Mayer.
2012 | 96 mins | Israel.
principal players: Nicholas Jacob / Nimr Mashrawi, Michael Aloni / Roy Schaffer, Jameel Khouri / Nabil Mashrawi, Alon Pdut / Gil, Loai Noufi / Mustafa, Khawlah Haj / Hiam Mashrawi, Maysa Daw / Abir Mashrawi, Shimon Mimran / Daniel, Majd Bitar / Bashar, Alon Oleartchik / Eitan Schaffer and Cheli Goldenberg as Rina Schaffer.
Adapted Synopsis: "Palestinian psychology student Nimr's dreams of a better life come into sharp focus when he meets and falls for Roy; an Israeli lawyer. As their relationship deepens, Nimr is confronted with the harsh realities of a Palestinian society that refuses to accept him for his sexual identity and an Israeli society that rejects him for his nationality. It is a divide that forces Nimr to choose between the career he thought he wanted, or a life with the man he loves."
Okay, let's cut to the chase, in that the scenario of two lovers separated by opposing values; be it households or as here political borders, is nothing new. Thankfully and in his stunning feature length debut, LA based Israeli director Michael Mayer takes the Romeo and Juliet theme and turns it into modern day reality, delivering a compelling portrait of two hearts that beat as one, only to be divided by the troubles of the Israeli / Palestine conflict.
And here, you really feel for the loving pair, thanks largely to the vibrant chemistry between Michael Aloni as out and proud lawyer Roy; a man of many connections, not all of them legit and Nicholas Jacob who in an impressive screen debut stars as his Palestinian lover Nimr; that of a man all too aware of the gravity of their situation.
Opposites attract in Out in the Dark.
[ Publicity photo - not in the film ]
It is one that Mayer doesn't hold back from illustrating, graphically killing off one of the supporting players well before act two has even started, with Roy's somewhat naïve hope that the Israeli legal system will sort out their predicament, all but vanish into acts of increasing desperation. In short, this is a work that does not turn a blind eye to the troubling times that are, as the camera acts as a witness to gun smuggling, underground tunnels, let alone the dire consequences that even the suspicion, if not the truth, of being a collaborator can bring on both sides. Yet Mayer goes further, dramatically capturing the fear of one's true sexual orientation being outed within a sexually intolerant family / land and the dark reality of such in the form of Nimr's brother Nabil; a proud Palestine fighting for the cause he believes in and a character that is counterbalanced on the Israeli side with a ruthless security officer determined to do whatever it takes, including blackmail, to root out every illegal Palestinian on the streets of Tel Aviv. Notably however Mayer does not takes sides; rather he opts to show it, like it is.
Love has no borders in Out in the Dark.
[ Publicity photo - not in the film ]
True, I dare say that some will take issue with the ending, one that and not surprisingly plays with the "will they or won't they make it out alive?" theme. And here, I'm not saying, although to be fair Mayer had but a limited number of options to play with. What I will add is that this is not the first Israeli film to showcase a forbidden love and here cue Eytan Fox's explosive feature The Bubble. Yet it is equally a work in which such a bloody battle is but the backdrop to a wonderfully crafted love story; that of the intense tale of two men determined that their love for each other will somehow find its way through turbulent waters. Beautifully executed, strikingly powerful and touching; frankly, this is what gay filmmaking should be all about. It is also what cinema itself should be about. Need more be said?
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - from the waist up.
Overall - file under ... 4 stars.