The Israeli Zarim, by the young writing-directing team of Guy Nattiv and Erez Tadmor, is an absolute delight and as romantic as anything by Hitchcock. Fluent and vivid in its use of handheld camera, it is also one of the screen’s most moving romances.
Eyal and Rana, football enthusiasts, meet in Berlin during the 2006 World Cup finals. He is an Israeli; she, a Palestinian currently living in Paris with her asthmatic out-of-wedlock son, Rashid. The two charming strangers play at being boyfriend and girlfriend, sharing an apartment and becoming lovers despite (because of?) the cultural and political attitudes dividing them. Eyal does not yet know about Rashid. Suddenly Rana must return to Paris, to her hospitalized son, and she begs Eyal not to phone her or come after her. Eyal, however, cannot resist. While Rana, who is undocumented, is detained by Immigration officials after being denounced by a hospital nurse, Eyal assumes care of Rashid. The two bond, rekindling Eyal’s relationship with Rashid’s mother. Meanwhile, the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in Lebanon by the Hezbollah, inviting a retaliatory response by Israel that includes bombing an apartment house, ignites the second Israel-Lebanon war, which leads to planned protests by the political group to which Rana belongs and Eyal’s notification to report for military duty. In such a world, can romance survive?
I don’t know when I have so rooted for a movie couple to remain together and prevail against seemingly insurmountable odds. This beautiful film broke my heart—and very nearly mended it with a fine, understated wellspring of hope. It handles its mess of competing responsibilities with aching feeling, wisdom, cogency and truth.
Lubna Azabal gives an unforgettable performance as Rana, including in the recurrent voiceover expressing Rana’s concerns and anxieties.
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